Can I own a home and receive SSA disability?

Q: Can I own a home and receive SSA disability?

A: Yes. Social Security benefits are not based on your income, resources or overall family financial status. If work, medical and other requirements are met, you can receive SSA disability.

For purposes of keeping your benefit record current, some changes need to be reported to Social Security. For example, owning or selling a home need not be reported but moving to a new address should be. More about your SSA disability reporting responsibilities are in “What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits.”

But, you need to be sure of what kind of disability benefits are received.

Separate from SSA retirement, survivors and disability, the Social Security Administration handles the need-based, and very different, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. For SSI, overall family income and resources matter and can make a big difference in being eligible.

Resources for SSI are things you own, including cash or anything else that could be changed to cash and used for food or shelter. This could include personal or family assets. In 2015, continuing for 2016, a person can have up to $2,000 of countable resources and remain eligible for SSI. If both members of a couple are eligible for SSI, the limit is $3,000 of countable resources. Many items do not count towards the SSI resource limit even though they might be valuable.

Even for SSI, a house you own and live in will not usually count toward resource levels. However, a home owned but not lived in usually counts as a resource and could end or prevent SSI eligibility. More examples are here.

Because SSI is largely based on income and resources, monthly amounts often change and knowing what to report is definitely important. If you receive SSI, be sure to understand the SSI Reporting Responsibilities.

Since Social Security and SSI are different programs, a person can be eligible for both at the same time as long as the different rules of each program continue to be met.

Help shape the Social Security disability process

Are you interested in helping shape the Social Security disability process?

If so, see the October Social Security Update, the agency monthly online newsletter, for two separate opportunities to do so.

First, an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is available for comment in the Federal Register until November 13. To review and comment, go to and enter SSA-2014-0081-0001 in the search box.

Following are short excerpts from the Proposed Rule. The full information is much more detailed.

 “What is the purpose of this ANPRM?

We are soliciting public comments along with supporting research and data about     how vocational factors such as age, education, and work experience affect an individual’s ability to adjust to other work that exists in the national economy. In addition to seeking public input on the specific questions below, we are also asking for public assistance to help identify research and data to assist us.”

“What should you comment about?

When we determine whether an individual can adjust to other work, we consider an individual’s functional capacities and limitations, the occupational base in the national economy, and the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience. We have ongoing activities related to each of these considerations. …  Accordingly, we are narrowing the scope of this ANPRM to solicit public comments on only the vocational factors. We are not soliciting public comments on how we assess an individual’s functional limitations. …”

Second, through December 1, Social Security is asking for public input to determine if reasonable accommodations should be considered in adult disability determination process. Following from the request:

“Question for consideration

Are there reasonable accommodations that employers provide universally, such that SSA could assume they would be available to any claimant when we determine whether he or she has the capacity to perform “any job in the national economy” (as required by our Statute)? If yes, what are those accommodations? What information or evidence can you offer to support any suggestion that such accommodations are universally available?”


More about SSI, including data for your state and county

Last week I wrote about 1972 Legislation creating the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program with links to some national SSI statistics.

Since then, two online publications with much more information about SSI became available.

The SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2014, is the first and much more detailed of these publications.

This annual report describes the SSI program and who receives benefits. The tables present data on such topics as recipient characteristics, disability and work incentives, applications, awards, and denials.

If you work with need-based programs this report might be useful to you. A casual reader will probably find the second publication, shown below, more interesting.

Here are tidbits from the Highlights section of the SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2014:

Size and Scope of the Supplemental Security Income Program

About 8.3 million people received federally administered payments in December 2014.

The average monthly payment in December 2014 was $532.

Total payments for the year were almost $55 billion, including more than $3 billion in federally administered state supplementation.  

Profile of Recipients

The majority were female (53 percent).

Sixteen percent were under age 18, 59 percent were aged 18 to 64, and 25 percent were aged 65 or older.

Most (86 percent) were eligible on the basis of a disability.

Six out of 10 recipients under age 65 were diagnosed with a mental disorder.

Fifty-eight percent of SSI recipients had no income other than their SSI payment.

Thirty-three percent of SSI recipients also received Social Security benefits.

Of the people receiving SSI benefits, 1.5 percent were residing in a Title XIX institution where Medicaid was paying more than half of the cost.

Despite their disabilities, about 315,000 recipients (4.3 percent) were working in December 2014.

The second report, SSI Recipients by State and County, 2014, brings SSI data to the state and county level in an easy to read format.

For each state and county, information shown includes the number of people receiving SSI as of December 2014, benefit category and age ranges for recipients and overall amount of SSI payments received. County data on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are a measure of the local impact of the program.

How many people in your state and county receive Supplemental Security Income? How much money does that represent each month? Find out in SSI Recipients by State and County, 2014.




The start of Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Legislation creating Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was signed into law on October 30, 1972, by President Richard M. Nixon as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-603).

SSI was a new Federal income program for the needy aged, blind and disabled. The Social Security Administration was assigned responsibility for it.

Based on need, not work, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is very different from Social Security retirement, survivors or disability benefits. SSI is funded by general revenues, not Social Security taxes, and pays benefits to disabled or blind adults and children having limited income and resources. SSI benefits are also payable to people age 65 or older without disabilities who meet the financial limits.

Why was SSI created? The following is from the “Historical Development of Economic Insurance” article in the History section of the Social Security website:

In the original 1935 Social Security Act, programs were introduced for needy aged and blind individuals and, in 1950, needy disabled individuals were added. These three programs were known as the “adult categories” and were administered by State and local governments with partial Federal funding. Over the years, the State programs became more complex and inconsistent, with as many as 1,350 administrative agencies involved and payments varying more than 300% from State to State. 

In 1969, President Nixon identified a need to reform these and related welfare programs to “bring reason, order, and purpose into a tangle of overlapping programs.” In 1971, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Elliot Richardson, proposed that SSA assume responsibility for the “adult categories.” In the Social Security Amendments of 1972, Congress federalized the “adult categories” by creating the SSI program and assigned responsibility for it to SSA. 

SSA was chosen to administer the new program because of its reputation for successful administration of the existing social insurance programs. SSA’s nationwide network of field offices and large-scale data processing and record-keeping operations also made it the logical choice to perform the major task of converting over 3 million people from State welfare programs to SSI.

Based largely on records transferred from state agencies across the country, first payments under the SSI program began in January 1974.

I was already with the Social Security Administration at that time and clearly remember the difficulties involved as everyone worked to get the new SSI program working in a time long before instant computer access to information.

SSI payments today are a maximum Federal amount of $733 per individual or $1,100 to a couple if both people are eligible. States can choose to add to this if desired. SSI amounts are reduced by other income, including Social Security.

As of September 2015, the national, average monthly Federal payment for all SSI recipients was $523.78. More national SSI information as of September 2015, including number of recipients by category and payment amounts is here.

Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) Open Season & Extra Help

The Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) plan open enrollment period started October 15 and ends December 7.

Learn about Part D at the Medicare website,  The Medicare homepage shows the Open Enrollment dates with a link labeled “Review your health and drug coverage options” that takes you to the Medicare Plan Finder. There you can complete a general search of plans in your ZIP code or a more detailed search based on more personal information. The 2016 plans are now available to review and compare.


Review your existing Part D plan each year. Insurance plans and your specific needs change. A plan that previously fit your needs might not be your best choice now. You need a list of your medicines, including dosages and frequency, to compare plans. Spouses can choose different plans.

Social Security representatives cannot help you choose a Part D prescription drug plan. Along with the official Medicare website tools to help you, state agencies might be available to help you. The North Dakota Insurance Department website has a schedule of statewide Part D enrollment events and the Minnesota Board of Aging, Health Insurance Counseling Program, helps too.

The Part D (Drug Coverage) page of the Medicare website contains a “Find someone to talk to” link, usually the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and others.

Everyone currently enrolled in Medicare can purchase a Part D prescription drug plan. Unlike Medicare Part A (Hospital) or Part B (Medical), Part D plans are purchased through private insurers. You shop for the plan that best suits your needs. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.

Although Social Security representatives cannot help you choose a Part D plan, the agency does administer the Extra Help portion of Medicare Part D for people with limited income and resources.

Extra Help is an income and resource based subsidy to help pay for part of monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. More about Extra Help is at

Financial requirements for the Prescription Drug Coverage Extra Help vary in part if you have earnings, support other family members or if you live in Alaska or Hawaii. General  requirements  include that:

Your resources must be limited to $13,640 for an individual or $27,250 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count your home, car or any life insurance policy as resources; and

Your annual income must be limited to $17,655 for an individual or $23,895 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Some examples where you may have higher income and still qualify for Extra Help include if you or your spouse: Support other family members who live with you, have earnings from work, or live in Alaska or Hawaii.  

The Extra Help website page has a section to help you decide if you might qualify for Extra Help assistance and has a list of information that you will need.  Follow the See if you qualify for Extra Help and apply link to use this. Keep in mind that using only the “Find out if you qualify” tool” is not an application and does not provide a formal decision. An Extra Help application can be completed regardless of the “see if you qualify” results. Complete an Extra Help application at the same link if desired.

An Extra Help application can be completed at any time, not only during the Part D open enrollment period. 

People with Medicare and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are automatically eligible for Extra Help and should not apply.

Applying for the Part D Extra Help program does not enroll you in a prescription drug plan. Enrolling in a Part D prescription drug plan is separate and different from applying for the Extra Help program.

You can also call the SSA national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or your local office for Part D Extra Help information and to apply.

Part D Exta Help

No 2016 Social Security or SSI cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)

There will not be a 2016 Social Security or Supplemental Security Income cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The following is from today’s Social Security press release.

Law Does Not Provide for a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2016 

With consumer prices down over the past year, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 65 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2016. 

The Social Security Act provides for an automatic increase in Social Security and SSI benefits if there is an increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The period of consideration includes the third quarter of the last year a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was made to the third quarter of the current year. As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015. Therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2016. 

Other adjustments that would normally take effect based on changes in the national average wage index also will not take effect in January 2016. Since there is no COLA, the statute also prohibits a change in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax, as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts. These amounts will remain unchanged in 2016. The attached fact sheet provides more information on 2016 Social Security and SSI changes. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced Medicare premium changes for 2016. Should there be an increase in the Medicare Part B premium, the law contains a “hold harmless” provision that protects approximately 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit. Those not protected include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2016. In addition, beneficiaries who have their Medicare Part B premiums paid by state medical assistance programs will see no change in their Social Security benefit. The state will be required to pay any Medicare Part B premium increase. 

Information about Medicare changes for 2016, when available, will be found at 

For additional information, please go to

Need a letter proving your benefit amount? Easy.

Q: I need a letter proving the amount of my Social Security. How can I get this?

A: When needed, benefit verification letters prove the amount of your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) income for any purpose whether you are applying for a mortgage loan, heating assistance or something else.

Based on the information you chose to include, a verification letter can also confirm your current Medicare health insurance coverage, age or type of benefits received.

The easiest way, if you created an online my Social Security account, is to request and download a benefit verification letter online at your convenience.

For Social Security, SSI or Medicare, you select information to be included in the verification letter. For example, you can show the type of benefit received with the amount, the amount only, or even that you have an application for benefits pending. For this and other online services, create your personal my Social Security account at

You can also telephone the national SSA telephone number, 800-772-1213, (TTY) 800-325-0778, 7:00am – 7:00pm standard business days, or contact your local office for a benefit verification letter. Allow several days mailing time for either of these.

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2015

FastFacts2015-2 The new Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2015 booklet is now available.

I like this booklet. Perhaps you will too.

Issued annually, this short booklet answers frequently asked questions about the programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It highlights basic program data for the Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

Tables and charts illustrate the range of program beneficiaries, from the country’s oldest to its youngest citizens. In all, about 64.2 million people received some type of Social Security benefit or SSI assistance in 2014.

Different topics are easily tabbed for your interest. All are worth your time. In particular, see the “Relative Importance of Social Security” chart in the “Income of the Aged Population” section.




Social Security & SSI payment dates for 2016

Payment dates for Social Security benefits and the separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program have been a very popular topic ever since I started these posts.

The 2016 schedule of payment dates is now available for viewing or downloading as a pdf file at

Most people starting Social Security since 1997 receive routine benefits on one of four days throughout the month: on the third of the month and on the second, third and fourth Wednesdays of the month. What day will yours arrive?

With several exceptions, Social Security payment dates now depend on the number holder’s (NH) date of birth. You are the NH if receiving Social Security on your own work record. If receiving based on the work of someone else, that person is the NH.

Therefore, if you receive Social Security retirement or disability through your own work, the payment date is based on your birth date. A child or spouse receiving benefits on your record will also have a payment date based on your birth date.

A couple can receive Social Security payment on different days if each person is receiving his or her own retirement benefit.

Social Security benefits are generally paid on the second Wednesday if the number holder was born within the first 10 days of a month, the third Wednesday if born within the 11-20th days and on the fourth Wednesday if born within the 21-31st days.  

Not all Social Security payment dates are birth date based. If you received Social Security before May 1997, your payment date is usually the third of the month. People eligible for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) generally receive SSI on the first and their Social Security on the third of the month.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funds are usually paid on the first of a month.

As noted on the 2016 schedule, regular payment dates for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are advanced if the usual date falls on a day when financial institutions such as banks or credit unions are closed.

One more item about payments: routine Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits are paid in the following month, meaning the benefit for October arrives in November. Routine Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are for the month paid so SSI arriving in October is for October.

 A link to the 2016 calendar has been added to my Areavoices homepage blogroll.


Are any illnesses automatically approved for Social Security disability?

Q: Are any illnesses automatically approved for Social Security disability?

A: Not automatically approved, but several ways are used to speed up the medical decision for certain medical circumstances. 

Social Security disability has both work and medical requirements. The separate, need based, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has financial limits and the same adult medical requirements.  

Social Security disability work requirements and SSI financial limits must be met before medical requirements are considered. For purposes of this answer, assume that these nonmedical requirements are met. 

Social Security has a strict definition of disability based on inability to work, with no provision for partial or temporary disability. In summary, you cannot do the work you did before, cannot be expected to adjust to other work because of your health, and your injury or illness has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.  

An official medical decision is always required but some medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards. For these, the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative is a way to expedite the processing of Social Security and SSI disability claims.  

Compassionate Allowances is an internal method to identify and speed up the medical decision. It is not a separate application and does not remove any Social Security or SSI requirements. For example, the Social Security disability waiting period still applies even when a medical allowance has been approved. 

Again not automatic medical approvals, other methods of expediting a medical decision are used for Social Security and SSI. These are different from Compassionate Allowances. 

One Social Security disability example is Wounded Warriors. Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security if the disability occurred while on active duty. In addition, since March 2014, veterans who have a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits. 

One Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability example is presumptive disability. For some severe medical conditions, where medical allowance is expected, several months of payment are sometimes payable in advance of receiving the official medical decision.