Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – Can You apply for Disability Benefits if You do not have Enough Work Credits known as Quarters of Coverage?

Social Security Disability Law Firm
Social Security Disability Law Firm

By Harry Brenner

At Affleck and Gordon, we have represented individuals with many different claims for disability benefits. One of those types of claims is called SSI, and we have represented and won thousands of SSI cases for deserving and disabled individuals over 35 years of practice.

Applying for disability benefits can be a confusing maze of paperwork and different programs. Unfortunately, this process is not always fully explained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). When you apply for disability benefits, you will likely be presented with the option to file Supplemental Security Income, known as SSI.

NOTE: An SSI application must be done through a local SSA field office, either in person or on the phone. It cannot be completed online like an SSDI application can, although when filing online the SSA will ask you if you intend to file for SSI. As stated, this will require interaction with a local SSA field office.

To start, it is important to understand the name of the program, and how the very title of the program can be misleading.

Supplemental Security Income does not necessarily mean “additional income” for you when you file for disability benefits (SSDI). In reality, SSI is a program designed to allow someone who does not have enough “work credits” — known as “quarters of coverage” — to still apply for disability benefits if they meet certain income and asset requirements that can be very confusing.

NOTE: SSDI Disability’s definition of who has enough work credits can act like a statute of limitations. You typically need to have paid enough taxes 5 out of the last 10 years – also known as 20 out of the last 40 quarters – to qualify for the main SSDI program. The standard changes on a sliding scale for individuals aged 30 and younger. An individual who has worked for many years and paid in taxes, but also waits too long to file for their disability benefits after they stop work, will have to deal with a type of statute of limitations known as a Date Last Insured, which is covered in a separate article.

A qualified SSI recipient is entitled to monetary benefits not to exceed $771 as of 2019, as well as Medicaid. The Medicaid insurance is critical for many individuals without the income or assets to afford high priced insurance in the marketplace.

NOTE: For married couples, the “couples max,” or maximum allowed couple rate for 2019 is $1,157. This rule applies when either 1 individual is on SSI and the other is on SSDI; or when both individuals receive SSI benefits.

It should be noted that while a person who does have enough work credits can still qualify for SSI benefits if they meet those income and asset requirements, as soon as they begin receipt of monthly SSDI benefits, any amount of $771 per month or more in SSDI benefits will disqualify an individual from receipt of ongoing SSI benefits. There are exceptions for this rule but only in limited and very specific situations.

Now that you know that SSI is typically for someone that does not have enough work credits, or an individual who would qualify for SSDI but would receive under $771 a month, we can dive into the income restrictions.

NOTE: if an individual does get less than $771 a month in SSDI, and also meets the income and asset requirements for SSI, they will actually get “2 checks,” or 2 bank deposits, one for the SSDI amount, one for the additional SSI.

Example 1: Sarah gets $560 a month from SSDI based on her lifetime earnings. Depending on her income/asset situation, as seen below, she may qualify for an additional $211 a month in SSI benefits, and Medicaid as well. She would be entitled to Medicare based on her SSDI earnings, and Medicaid based on her SSI eligibility. Having both insurances is extremely valuable, especially to a disabled individual who requires significant and ongoing medical treatment.

The SSA must find that an individual or couple meets the income and asset requirements for SSI before an application can continue to the actual medical review. The SSA also takes into account a claimant’s spouse’s income. Further, the SSA can determine that two people who live together, but are not legally married, can be considered to be “holding out.” The SSA means this to be holding out to their community that they present themselves as a married couple in their way of life. This is viewed from a number of factors, including how a couple files tax returns, and even how a couple presents themselves to their neighbors, family, and community.

Example 2: Bobby applies for SSI benefits, as he does not have enough work credits to file for SSDI. He lives with Jane, who gets $1,340 a month in SSDI benefits as she is disabled herself. He and Jane have lived together for 25 years, and they have 2 children together, but they never married. They file taxes jointly. When they go to the grocery store, the employees greet them as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which is Bobby’s last name in this example. After filing his application, the local SSA field office conducts a review and determines that Bobby and Jane are holding out as a married couple. Further, because of Jane’s SSDI amount being over the limit for a couple where at least 1 of the 2 individuals receive SSI, Bobby’s application is not allowed to proceed and he is denied for spousal income reasons on his SSI application. The SSA can and does go by these rules even in states where there is no more common law marriage, as the SSA’s rules are specific for their programs.

NOTE: The threshold amount of allowable household earnings your spouse contributes depends on whether it is “Earned” or “Unearned.” Earned income can be, for example, a job where the spouse gets a salary or hourly wages. Unearned income can be, for example, a spouse’s monthly receipt of SSDI benefits or other pension benefits. The irony in this distinction is that a person who gets SSDI benefits certainly earned their monthly amount, but the SSA classifies such money as “Unearned” because the individual is not actually working currently to get the SSDI monthly amount. Thus, as an SSI applicant, the amount of spousal contribution and the source of the spousal contribution makes a big difference in eligibility rules.

You now know that for an SSI application to proceed, a person must meet income and asset rules, and that your spouse plays a big role in that equation as well.

But what are those income and asset rules?

This is a very specific and complex area of SSA law, something that cannot be described in one article. However, there are some general rules that end up being the biggest obstacle for many SSI applicants. Here are the some rules that affect a large number of people.

1. – An individual cannot have more than $2,000 in countable resources; and a couple cannot have more than $3,000 in countable resources.

NOTE: This does not only refer to liquid assets such as cash and bank accounts. This can also refer to things, for example, as stocks, or certain types of life insurance policies that a person could receive monetary benefit from while they were alive. There are numerous things that can be considered as a countable resource.

2. – An individual cannot own a residence other than the one they live in. This rule holds that you can own 1 house, but if you do not live in the house you own, then its value will be counted against you in an SSI resource determination.

NOTE: This also applies to individuals who may have inherited only portion of a house; in that case their portion will be considered as a countable resource to be valued.

NOTE: Trying to get rid of one’s assets without getting the proper value back for them is not allowed by SSI rules and could result in significant penalties, including the inability to apply again for SSI for a number of years. There are ways to properly reduce an individual’s assets and/or resources in very specific situations, such as the entering into a special needs trust, or the proper “spending down” of an individual’s assets. We can address these issues when discussing your case with you.

3. – An individual or couple cannot typically own more than 1 car in the household. This includes cars that may not be running but could be sold for benefit to the owner. One exception to this rule is if the value of the cheaper car is low enough for SSI threshold amounts, in that case the 2nd car will not disqualify the individual or couple.

Now you know some of the most important aspects of how an individual can qualify to even apply for SSI benefits. It is important to remember that if you meet the income and asset requirements to file for SSI, you must then be found medically disabled to be eligible for benefits.

NOTE: The medical definition of disability under SSA rules is the same for both SSDI and SSI claimants.

At Affleck and Gordon, we can help you navigate the maze of SSI and help you get deserved benefits that could provide vitally needed income and medical insurance.

Atlanta Eyes Regulation of Booming Electric Scooter Business – AJC.com

Jack Hearn, 20, a third-year civil engineering major at Georgia Tech, rides a Bird scooter on campus. JOHN SPINK
Jack Hearn, 20, a third-year civil engineering major at Georgia Tech, rides a Bird scooter on campus. JOHN SPINK / ajc.com

To supporters, they’re an inventive, convenient way to get around the city without much of a carbon footprint. To critics, they’re critters that litter Atlanta’s sidewalks, posing a danger to pedestrians, drivers and the people who use them.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, those dockless scooters that popped up around Atlanta earlier this year could soon be officially regulated by the City of Atlanta.

“These scooters appeared one day and took the city by storm,” said Councilor Michael Julian Bond, the lead sponsor of new legislation.

At a City Council public safety committee meeting Tuesday, the body discussed an ordinance that would set specific rules for where the scooters can be ridden and parked, and implement permit requirements that could net tens of thousands of dollars for the city. The committee voted to hold the bill for now, before it is potentially voted on by the full Council.

The dockless scooter trend has exploded across the country and the world over the past year, reaching cities in more than 25 states as well countries such as Mexico, France and Israel. In some cities like San Antonio and Richmond, the scooters have been met with backlash, and city crews reportedly took to the streets and removed the devices themselves.

Around intown Atlanta, the scooters, operated by California-based companies Lime and Bird, are hard to miss. A Bird representative told the City Council on Tuesday that Atlanta is the company’s second-largest scooter city globally (behind San Diego), and that there are currently over 1,500 Bird scooters deployed here.

They are dockless and electric, meaning they rev up to about 15 mph and can be left virtually anywhere for the next rider. All it takes is a smartphone app to start a relatively inexpensive ride, which costs a $1 flat fee and 15 cents for each additional minute. (Overnight, a team of local employees drives around to pick up and charge the devices.)

On a recent afternoon outside a restaurant near the Beltine, a group of friends squealed “Birds!” as they hopped on a row of the sleek black scooters that awaited them on the sidewalk. Among the group, Marietta resident Kate Noble said it was her first time riding one of the scooters in Georgia.

“Especially in a city like Atlanta, where you’ve got the BeltLine and you’ve got things that connect, I think it’s a fun way to get around,” Noble said.

The current legislation, which would go into effect Jan. 1, sets a $12,000 annual fee for a company to operate 500 scooters, and a $50 fee for every additional device.

It also mandates that the scooters are technically not allowed to ride on sidewalks. This, Bond stressed, is thanks to state law, which prohibits motorized devices from driving on Georgia sidewalks.

Regardless, it highlights the tricky middle ground the scooters have landed in. Since Atlanta is a notoriously car-heavy city, it’s common to see scooter-riders defying the law and cruising down the sidewalks of busy streets like Monroe Drive or Peachtree Street.

Todd O’Boyle, Lime’s development director for the Southeast, said they surveyed riders on whether they use the street or the sidewalk.

“Riders consistently reported that if they ride on the sidewalk, it’s because they didn’t feel safe on the streets,” O’Boyle said.

Inman Park resident Stephanie Thomas worries that scooter riders who are afraid to cruise on the streets could be a danger to pedestrians on sidewalks. Thomas said she was leaving her pedicure appointment on North Highland Avenue earlier this summer when a person on a scooter zipped by, brushing her shoulder.

“If he had been any closer, he would’ve hurt me,” Thomas said. “He never even looked back. That was very frustrating.”

Electric scooters have also been linked to a number of crimes in the city, including a shooting downtown and harassment and theft in Midtown, according to police, though they said there is no direct linkbetween the scooters and crime.

Under the current rules, the scooters are technically not allowed on the BeltLine, though it appears this has not been widely enforced — it’s rare to take a stroll on the BeltLine and not pass fleets of Birds or Limes. The new ordinance would clarify that the scooters can ride on the BeltLine and in city parks.

With an average trip time of 10 minutes, Lime riders in Atlanta take longer scooter treks than people in other major American cities, O’Boyle said.

“People are riding scooters really from one pocket of density to another,” he said. “We really are seeing that people are using this to use their transportation needs,” he said.

O’Boyle and others herald the scooters as an antidote that could help alleviate the metro area’s traffic problems, but it remains to be seen whether the two-wheeled devices are a potential solution, or if they will only become another vehicle on the road complicating the lives of Atlantans.

“We want to give people as many options as possible to live less auto-dependent lives, and that is core to our operation,” he said.

While the scooters are currently confined to the City of Atlanta, they could likely show up soon in other pockets of the metro area.

O’Boyle said Lime has seen interest from neighboring communities like Brookhaven, and while he doesn’t expect any expansion announcements soon, he “wouldn’t be surprised if we’re there in the near future.” The City of Brookhaven confirmed that it is “working with the industry” to develop policies for the devices.

Nov 13, 2018
By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Or Maybe It Was The Ice Cream…

Happy Thoughts & Happy Days
Happy Thoughts & Happy Days

Each day I start work I flip the page to my happy thoughts calendar called “365 Happy Days! A happy thought for every day.” Sometimes it’s a famous quote or a little bit of a poem or just a happy thought that puts a smile on your face and helps you start the day out right. I just turned over the page in my happy thoughts calendar and I thought I’d share this thought with you:

“Take time out to think about an enjoyable occasion from your childhood – a birthday party or a trip to the zoo or making sandcastles on the beach. For a few moments let yourself be that child again.”

Now think back. Take a journey with me. What is your favorite childhood memory?

First I thought about birthday parties. I never had a birthday party when I was a kid. I think it was because my birthday is in August and I couldn’t hand invitations to my classmates since school was not in session. I should add that I did eventually have a birthday party when I was 18 years old. It was a surprise party at my aunt’s house. I thought my best friend and I were going to the lake and my mom asked me to drop something off at my Aunt Martha’s house. Surprise!

But before I stray off topic it got me to thinking about all the times when I was young my family went swimming at the lake on the weekend. We’d take a day trip on a Saturday to Atwood Lake or Tappan. Mostly we’d go to Atwood because it was closer. I remember from those summer lake trips that the days were hot and the lake was cool. We’d spend hours swimming and playing in the lake like a bunch of water babies. By the end of the day when the sun was setting and the earth was starting to cool and feel green again, we’d wrap up in big colorful sun-warmed beach towels and climb in the backseat of the green station wagon in our wet swimsuits and before we’d reach home we’d drive up to the local Dairy Queen and get a chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream cone or a Cherry Misty Slush for the ride home. There was nothing like it to capture the feeling of a drowsy, tranquil happiness.

Before Summer ends make time for a beachside walk, a summer lake trip or float in your local YMCA pool. There is something magical about being near or in the water that makes you feel calmer, more relaxed and happier. Or maybe it was the ice cream.

By Marci McKenna