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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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