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SSI: Applying For


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It is advisable to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as soon as possible. Social Security does not make SSI payments for any period prior to the date of your first contact with Social Security.

You can start the process at your local Social Security office by calling for an appointment.

Take with you all the documentation needed to show you are eligible for SSI. It is advisable not to postpone the appointment until you have everything together. Social Security will help you pull together whatever you're missing.

When you apply for either SSI or Supplemental Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the Social Security interviewer is supposed to check to see whether you also qualify for the other program. For most people, the medical requirements and process to qualify are the same under both programs.

As an SSI applicant, you must also apply for any other benefits to which you may be entitled. If you're not aware of other benefits, ask the Social Security interviewer about them.

In some states, an SSI eligible person is automatically entitled to Medicaid. Other states are more restrictive and impose additional requirements on Medicaid eligibility.

If you are eligible for SSI because of your health condition (a disability), there are five questions an evaluator will ask in the following order:

  1. Are you working?
  2. Is there a medical problem which impacts your ability to work to any degree?
  3. Is your medical condition found in the list of disabling impairments?
  4. Can you do the work you did previously?
  5. Is there another type of work that you can do?

If you are eligible because of blindness, there are special rules.

You can use a representative (a layperson such as a family member or a paid professional) to apply for SSI for you. (To learn more, see: Hiring A Representative To Help Complete The Forms.)

If you are unable to manage your own benefits, you may appoint a Representative Payee to receive benefits on your behalf. To learn more, see: Representative Payee.

If your application is denied, you will have the right to appeal. Your notice from Social Security will let you know whether your first level of appeal is Reconsideration or an Adminstrative Law Judge.

A few tips:

  • Resist the temptation to underreport your income and/or resources. To learn more, see: Don't Under Report Your Income And Resources
  • Keep a log of your application process. Include names, phone numbers, dates of contact and the substance of what happened during each contact. The log will come in handy if you have to appeal an adverse decision.
  • If you need money right away, ask for an advance on SSI benefits. See Money In A Hurry.
  • Be forewarned about scams. Watch for people who may call saying they are from Social Security and asking for personal identification or bank account information. The best approach is not to give out this information or your Social Security number on the telephone unless you initiate the call.
  • Look at The Time Table For An SSI Application.
  • Look at Overall Tips To Keep In Mind When Applying For SSDI and/or SSI.

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