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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- As of the publication date of this post (February 22, 2022), the SSA is not accepting any in-person appointments for SSI applications due to the pandemic. However, there is a plan to re-open SSA offices on March 30, 2022, see Memorandum of Understanding Agency Re-Entry and Workplace Safety Plan 2.0.
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.
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:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 305-9199
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
- Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
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.