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Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Financial February 2022

Financial February: How Can I Apply for SSI?

A key part of the transition process is knowing about financial benefits for which blind and low vision students are eligible. Join us for Financial February for a crash course on SSI benefits.

  • February 1: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?
  • February 8: What are the Income Requirements for SSI?
  • February 15: How do Resources Affect SSI?
  • February 22: How Can I Apply for SSI?

In this fourth and final installment of our “Financial February” Series, we discuss the SSI application process and offer suggestions on how to gather needed documentation.

Application Tips

Prepare to wait

  • The application and evaluation process for SSI determination can be quite lengthy. As such, we recommend that you review the specific rules about disability, income, and resources before applying to ensure that you qualify before beginning your application.

Plan ahead

  • If you have too many resources to qualify, it might make sense to look into ways to legally transfer those resources. Options include opening an ABLE account and putting excess there, before beginning the application

Get a bank account

  • SSI payments can be issued to you on a prepaid card, but the most accessible way to track your finances is to open a bank account. Also, SSI can deposit your monthly check directly into your account, and you can monitor your finances independently either through your bank’s mobile application or via their website. If you choose to have SSI checks deposited directly into your account, you will need to provide SSA with your account number and routing number, which you can obtain upon opening your bank account.

Jump online

  • Creating a My Social Security account online will allow you to view your benefits status and download important communications from SSA without waiting to receive them in the mail. It also eliminates the need to call SSA to request certain documents because many forms and letters can be obtained or submitted on the website. Lots of business can be handled through this account, so please consider creating one to cut back on on-hold phone time waiting to speak with a representative.

Information Needed to Apply

Be prepared to provide:

  • Your full legal name
  • Your permanent address
  • Your social security number
  • Your employment history, if any
  • Information about whether you are or have been married, names and birthdates of any children you have

You also need to indicate the disability (or disabilities) under which you are applying for SSI and share the names and contact information for all of your medical providers (even if not directly related to your SSI disability).

You will be asked to provide documentation, so have your Social Security card, birth certificate, state-issued identification card, and relevant medical records available. In addition, please review our blog post about SSI disability eligibility What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It? to familiarize yourself with the disability determination process.

When to Apply for SSI

Apply as soon as you are eligible to do so. The earlier you apply, the earlier you will establish your right to SSI benefits. Even though it may take several months for benefits to begin, if you are found to have been eligible for SSI when you applied, you will receive back benefits based on your application date. You cannot receive back benefits for months before you applied – even if you were technically eligible to receive SSI during those months.

  • If you are not yet 18 years old and your parents’ income and resources meet SSI guidelines, apply as soon as you can. If your parents’ income and/or resources exceed SSI guidelines, you must wait until you are an adult (18 years old) to potentially be eligible for SSI.
  • If you are intending to apply as an adult, you may call to set up a telephone appointment before your 18th birthday. However, the appointment itself will not take place until after your 18th birthday.
  • If you are 18 years old or older and meet the income and resource eligibility requirements for SSI, you may apply at any time.

Applying for SSI

Online Application

  • Individuals can now apply for SSI online only if they are between the ages of 18 and 64. Before you begin your application, be sure to have all of your documentation assembled. Check out How To Apply for SSI to learn more and to begin your online application.

Telephone application

  • You can call SSA to apply for SSI via phone: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Note that when you call, you will likely have to set up an appointment for them to call you back for a phone meeting at a later date depending on the timing that the representative has. Even so, we recommend being prepared with all of your required documentation. Please note that hold times on SSA can be quite lengthy.

In-person Application

Conclusion

Be aware that once you have submitted your application, the determination process can take quite a long time, and this is made more lengthy because of the pandemic.

Thank you for joining us on our crash course in SSI. We know that these posts have been filled with technical information and jargon, and we encourage you to reach out to us anytime to get further clarification or to discuss your individual situation.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Teen Blog

Feb 22 Newsletter Teen and Young Adult Programs

News from IMAGE Teen and Young Adult Programs February 2022

Highlights

A Welcome to our newest students from Towson University!
Join IMAGE in giving a warm welcome to our newest students from Towson University Jessica Hart and Shannon Smith. These ladies join us from Towson’s Occupational Therapy Department and will be tasked with the continued structuring of our new Peer Mentor program. Peer Mentor applicants and Connect program participants alike will have the opportunity to work with each of these ladies as they bring fresh perspectives and outlooks to our teen and young adult programs. We are very excited to welcome these ladies and look forward to the work that they will contribute in the coming months ahead.

Jessica Hart

Jessica Hart is a 2nd year Occupational Therapy student at Towson University, from Baltimore, MD. Prior to Towson, Jessica attended Temple University and graduated with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. If not in school, Jessica is often dancing, cooking, at the gym, or doing a craft. Working with children/young adults and mental health are two things that she is passionate about!

Portrait of female student Jessica Hart posing outdoors in front of a tree.



Shannon Smith
Hi, my name is Shannon Smith. I graduated from James Madison University in 2019, and I am currently in the Masters Occupational Therapy program at Towson University. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and have traveled to various places, including Germany, Paris, Prague, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia and Hawaii. I love to travel, cook, paint, hang out with family and friends, go to the beach, read books, and care for my two cats (Milo pictured below). 

Portrait of female students Shannon Smith posing on a outdoor patio holding her cat Milo.




Peer Mentor Spotlight

Peer Mentor Application is OPEN!
Applications for students wishing to become Peer Mentors for the Winter session of the Connect program are now open.

Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
This winter Peer Mentors will have the opportunity to work alongside student interns from Towson University in addition to participation in the Connect Program. Peer Mentors will engage in both zoom training sessions, as well as peer mentor opportunities within our Connect program.

Click here to apply

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org



Celebrating Fearless Moments

Chalkboard sign with the words "What's New" written across it with white chalk. Calling all Students, Parents, Family Members, Service Providers and Care Givers! Do you have a fearless moment that you want to share? We love celebrating the accomplishments of our young consumers in every aspect of their lives, not just within our programs here at IMAGE. We want to hear from you! Message your fearless moment to Jessica Leone at jleone@imagemd.org and type “Fearless Moment” in the subject line. You might be featured in our next monthly newsletter.
Here is to being FEARLESSLY you today!


Upcoming Events

Two hands connecting two separate puzzle pieces.
The Connect Program
Registering now for our virtual sessions!
Mar. 1
Mar. 15
Mar. 29
Apr. 12
Apr. 26
May 10

The Connect Program is a program that empowers teens and young adults with disabilities to step outside of their comfort zone, make connections with their community, build social experiences and recognize and achieve skills needed for increased independence in adulthood. These skills include money management, time management, social and communication skills, personal hygiene, meal planning and decision making skills just to name a few.

Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Click here to Register





PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training Program
Registration now open for sessions through May!

Want to be referred for this program?
Contact Jessica Leone jleone@imagemd.org for information
The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.
Contact jleone@imagemd.org
 learn more.


Support Youth Programs at The IMAGE Centerplant growing in cupped hands
Sponsor a Student Today!


Connect with The IMAGE Center ‌  ‌  ‌Logo for The IMAGE Center. Logo is teal and orange and includes a sprocket shape and icons representing various types of disabilities.www.imagemd.org | 410-982-6311
Categories
Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Financial February 2022

Financial February: How Do Resources Affect SSI?

A key part of the transition process is knowing about financial benefits for which blind and low vision students are eligible. Join us for Financial February for a crash course on SSI benefits.

  • February 1: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?
  • February 8: What are the Income Requirements for SSI?
  • February 15: How do Resources Affect SSI?
  • February 22: How Can I Apply for SSI?

In this third installment of our “Financial February” Series, we define resources, describe which resources count in determining SSI eligibility, and explain how to save money despite the very low SSI resource limit.

What are Resources?

For SSI purposes, resources include things you own or have control of. They include cash, bank accounts, and investments. They also include land and personal property.

SSI payments are meant to help you obtain food and shelter; they are not meant to provide income. For this reason, SSI has strict resource limits.  

For individuals, the resource limit is $2,000. You are not entitled to an SSI payment for any month you are over this resource limit, and you will be required to pay back SSI if you have already received a monthly payment.

Just as with income limitations, resource limits are applied differently for child applicants than they are for adult applicants (see last week’s blog post What are the Income Requirements for SSI?).

Resource Exclusions

Just like with income, there are certain resources that SSA will exclude when determining your eligibility for SSI. These include:

  • Specific resources listed in section 1613 of the Social Security Act, including one vehicle, some prepaid burial expenses, and some work-related property (if you are working).
  • Certain kinds of accounts that meet strict guidelines
  • Retroactive SSI payments (back payments owed) for nine months
  • Economic impact payments (EIP), also known as COVID stimulus payments (must be spent within twelve months)
  • Other less-common exclusions

NOTE: In general, if your resources are too great, you will not be eligible for an SSI monthly payment until you “spend down” to the resource limit.

Is There a Way to Save Money and Still Receive SSI Benefits?

You may be thinking that the $2,000 resource limit seems quite low, and you would be right. How are students supposed to save for their future if being an SSI beneficiary requires that they do not save over $2,000?

In 2014, the U.S. Congress passed a law creating Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts. ABLE accounts provide many individuals with disabilities a tax-free way to save money to pay for many disability-related expenses. Also, the first $100,000 of funds in ABLE accounts do not count as resources for SSI. ABLE accounts can be a great savings vehicle for qualifying disabled people, whether or not they receive SSI. To learn more, contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk to learn about the independence and financial preparedness that having an ABLE account can provide.  

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Financial February 2022

Financial February: What Are the Income Requirements for SSI?

A key part of the transition process is knowing about financial benefits for which blind and low vision students are eligible. Join us for Financial February for a crash course on SSI benefits.

  • February 1: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?
  • February 8: What Are the Income Requirements for SSI?
  • February 15: How Do Resources Affect SSI?
  • February 22: How Can I Apply for SSI?

In this second installment of our Financial February series, we discuss income, part of the second prong of SSI eligibility.

Review

In last week’s installment of our SSI series, What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?, we noted that SSI is a financial safety net for adults younger than 65 who have significant disabilities and who have limited income and limited financial resources.

In today’s post, we focus on what limited income means for SSI eligibility. Next week, we will cover limited resources in terms of SSI eligibility.

SSI for a Child

If the person with a qualifying SSI disability is younger than 18, a portion of the income and resources of parents and step-parents with whom the child lives are usually counted in determining the child’s eligibility. Some benefit payments are not included as income. For specific questions, please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for more information or to inquire about specifics.

SSI for an Adult

Often, a child under 18 will have a qualifying disability but will not qualify for SSI because their parent’s income and/or resources are too high for SSI eligibility. However, one month after the child turns 18, eligibility focuses only on the individual’s own income and resources. Thus, even if a young disabled adult lives with parents or family members, only the disabled adult’s income and resources are considered for SSI eligibility purposes.

For this reason, applying for SSI is often a large part of the transition process to adulthood for blind and low vision young adults.

Important notes:

These rules are different for the spouse of an SSI applicant/recipient, whose income and resources may be counted in SSI eligibility.

Also, if a parent claims an adult child as a dependent on their taxes, this can negatively impact the adult child’s SSI benefits.

It is important to get advice based on your personal situation.

Please contact the Free Maryland Bridges Helpdesk with questions about this or any other matter.

What Counts as Income?

SSI considers four types of income:

  • Earned income, including wages, self-employment income, cash paid for work (like babysitting or lawn mowing), etc.
  • Unearned income, including cash gifts, other Social Security benefits, interest and dividends from investments, etc.
  • In-kind income, such as food or shelter provided for free or at less than market value
    • Includes cases where you live with someone (even your parent) for free.
    • If you are not paying rent or for food where you live, your monthly SSI payment will be cut by one-third.
  • Deemed income, usually the income of a spouse, if you have one.

 

Income Exclusions

There are certain income exclusions that SSI does not count in your calculation of income. This list provides some examples of income exclusions for SSI purposes. Please always feel free to consult the Free Bridges Helpdesk to assist you along the way:

  • The first $20 in ANY KIND of income per month is excluded from income. This exclusion only counts once per month, even if you have two or more kinds of income.
  • Every dollar of unearned income over the general exclusion ($20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by $1
  • In addition to the general exclusion ($20), the first $65 in earned income each month is excluded from income. Every $2 of earned income over the total exclusion ($65 + $20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by $1.
  • Economic impact payments (EIP), also known as COVID stimulus payments
  • Impairment-related work expense (IRWE) deduction
  • Work-related expenses for blind individuals (in addition to the IRWE)
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (available until you reach age 22)
  • Exclusions and benefits related to an approved PASS plan (plan to achieve self-support)
  • Other miscellaneous exclusions

Keep in Mind

This information can seem very technical at first glance, and the Bridges Helpdesk is always here to support you as you figure out your initial and continuing eligibility for benefits.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Financial February 2022

Financial February: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?

A key part of the transition process is knowing about financial benefits for which blind and low vision students are eligible. Join us for Financial February for a crash course on SSI benefits.

  • February 1: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?
  • February 8: What Are the Income Requirements for SSI?
  • February 15: How Do Resources Affect SSI?
  • February 22: How Can I Apply for SSI?

In this first installment of our “Financial February” series, we define SSI and discuss the SSI disability requirement.

Overview

As you may know, U.S. workers can receive monthly Social Security checks when they retire. There is another type of monthly check available to individuals with blindness or other disabilities who do not have a work history called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSI is a financial safety net provided by the federal government. SSI helps disabled people ages birth through 64 who have little or no income by providing a monthly cash payment. In 2022, the maximum monthly amount for an SSI check is $841.

Disability Requirement

Individuals must meet two prongs of eligibility in order to qualify for SSI benefits. The first prong is a disability requirement. What types of disabilities qualify?

  • Legal blindness: Legal blindness must have lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months in order to qualify for SSI. Legal blindness is based on a clinical eye exam and can be met by either central visual acuity (“20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of correcting lens”) or visual field loss (“widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees”).
  • Other Disabilities: Disability eligibility for SSI for people who do not fall into the legal blindness category is different and requires more proof of disability. To find out more about SSI for children or adults who are not legally blind, please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Proof of Disability

When you initially apply for SSI, it is important to have on hand any medical documentation that certifies that you have a disability. You will also be asked during the application process to provide the contact information for all of your medical providers, including those who do not give you medical care that is directly related to your disability. Your state’s Disability Determination Services office will then make a decision about whether your disability qualifies you to receive SSI payments. Maryland Disability Determination Services (DDS), part of the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), serves as the DDS office in Maryland. DDS may ask you to come in for a medical exam. Even if you have other medical information confirming your legal blindness, you must go to that medical exam as part of your application process.

Limited Income and Financial Resources Requirements

The second prong for determining SSI eligibility is determining if an applicant has limited income and limited financial resources; an individual must meet both of these requirements in order to be eligible for SSI. Next week, we will cover different types of income that SSI considers when determining eligibility.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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