Demystifying Social Security Supplemental Income and Survivor's Benefit

Law Blog

The Social Security Administration manages social security income and supplemental security income. Social security recipients get benefits regardless of their income. But, you might need the services of a social security attorney for SSI benefits, because SSI recipients must meet strict income guidelines. 

Benefits Overview

The Administration pays social security benefits from a trust account funded by social security taxes. Recipients are eligible for benefits if they worked long enough to pay into the social security program.  How long the person needs to work is dependent on their age, but is never more than 10 years. Recipients can also get benefits if a family member worked long enough to pay into the social security program.

Conversely, people with certain disabilities and older citizens who have limited income and resources can get SSI.  Limited income is monthly income that falls below the federal benefits rate. The Administration pays SSI using general treasury funds, which includes personal income taxes and corporate and other taxes.  Basically, if the administration believes you're earning an income, they might deny your claim.

Survivor Benefits

When a wage earner dies, the Administration pays survivor benefits from the social security fund to the decedent's spouse and dependent children.  Natural born and adopted children, plus stepchildren and grandchildren are eligible for benefits if the decedent provided at least half of their support. It crucial for spouses to know that they're benefits won't kick in until they're 60, unless they're caring for the decedents dependent children.

The amount the spouse and dependents receive depends on the decedent's average lifetime earnings. Payments begin after the Administration approves the application, so applying early is important. It's also worth noting that a divorcee also has the right to survivor benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Survivors who are working often get reduced benefits if their earnings exceed a certain limit.

SSI Requirements

To get SSI, the recipient must be disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old, and they must meet the FBR specified income bracket, which was $733 in 2015. The Administration excludes certain income to encourage recipient independence. For example, the Administration counts only half of earned income over $65. Also, students 22 years and younger can exclude up to $7,060 of their earned income. This way, recipients can earn a little more and still receive assistance.

Decedent SSI Benefits

SSI benefits stop when a child turns 18 or when a disabled person's medical condition improves to a point they are no longer considered disabled.  SSI benefits also stop when the recipient earns a substantial income. In 2014, this amount was $1,800 per month for blind people and $1,070 for all others.

If a claim was in process when a recipient died, the Administration might pay retroactive SSI benefits if the person filed the claim before passing. In this case, the Administration will pay the amount the decedent would have received between the application's approval date and the date the person died.  No other amounts are awarded.

Submitting an SSI claim and getting an approval can be a long complicated process, so speak with a social security attorney (like those at the firm of Horn & Kelley, PC Attorneys at Law) to make sure you get the benefits you deserve.


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