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Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides monthly payments from the U.S. Treasury to qualifying persons with disabilities. Payments are made to persons who have limited income and resources and who meet living arrangement requirements. Social Security follows rules and policies and reviews recipients' disabilities periodically to ensure they meet program requirements. Until you are 18, Social Security considers the income and resources of family members who are a part of your household with regard to program income requirements. If you qualify, Social Security assigns a representative payee (parent, family member, or other caregiver) to help manage your money and pay for your basic living expenses and needs.

After you turn 18, Social Security reviews your disability, income and resources using rules and policies of the SSI program for adults. The adult definition of disability is based on one's ability to work. Sometimes people who qualified for SSI payments under the children's rules do not meet the rules and policies of the adult program. Be sure to give Social Security any requested information about your medical condition and doctors who have treated your disability. On the other hand, the adult rules consider only your own income and resources, not those of others in your household. Even if you could not receive SSI payments before your 18th birthday because your family made too much money, you may qualify as an adult.

If Social Security makes a decision about your SSI payments that you do not agree with, you can appeal through several levels in the agency and the federal district court.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) also provides monthly payments to eligible persons with disabilities. SSDI is financed with taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed people. SSDI payments to workers who qualify are based on their Social Security earnings record. The SSDI program also pays benefits to adults who have a disability that began before they became 22 years old. Social Security considers this a "child" benefit because it is paid on a parent's Social Security earnings record—the child does not need to have worked to get these benefits. For a disabled adult to become entitled to this "child" benefit, one of his or her parents must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits or must have worked long enough under Social Security and then died. These benefits are also payable to an adult who received dependent's benefits on a parent's Social Security earnings record prior to age 18 if he or she is disabled at age 18. Social Security makes the disability decision using the disability rules for adults. SSDI disabled adult "child" benefits continue as long as the individual remains disabled.

The Effect of Working on Benefits

If you receive cash benefits (SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, or Medicare) from the Social Security Administration, going to work may affect your benefits but the government has incentive programs to help you keep these benefits while earning an income. For instance, if you are 15 and saving for school or under 22 and attending school, some resources and earnings can be excluded from calculations for qualification. Expenses for equipment, assistance, training and rehabilitation may be discounted as well. For free, private benefits planning and review to help you make informed choices, contact Work Incentives Planning and Assistance, Endependence Center, 6300 E. Virginia Beach Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23502, 1-866-323-1088 (voice).


If Social Security decides that it paid you too much SSI or SSDI, you will get a letter of notice and explanation of the error. Usually, overpayments must be paid back to Social Security. If you receive such a letter, stay calm and contact Social Security immediately. If you cannot pay the entire amount back right away, Social Security will set up a monthly payment plan or reduce your monthly payment.

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