Some eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Atlanta—as well as the benefits you earn—can vary from year to year.
While many of the basic facts and steps for filing an SSI claim may remain fairly constant, changes can and do occur. That’s why it’s crucial to stay current on the most recent information from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Regardless, the process can be challenging and time consuming, including interviews, procuring medical records, appealing claim denials, and court hearings.
There are times consulting an Atlanta SSI attorney may be necessary in order to give you the best chance of winning your benefits. An attorney can advocate on your behalf and help you navigate the expectations of the SSA and court officials if you must appeal a claim.
If you’re filing for SSI benefits in 2020, important facts to keep track of include:
- What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
- What’s New about SSI in 2020?
- How Does COVID-19 Impact Your SSI Benefits?
- When Should You Consult an SSI Attorney in Atlanta?
Here’s how to determine who is eligible for SSI in 2020, as well as the amount of benefits you may be entitled to.
What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
SSI is a needs-based benefits program for those who are 65 or older or are blind or disabled at any age, and who have limited income and resources.
You would apply for SSI when you haven’t paid Social Security taxes through your employer to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Those who qualify for SSI typically also qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as Medicaid.
While the application, appeals process, and general nature of the program may not differ much, some things will vary by year. These include, for instance, the amount of benefits you receive, as well as income barriers for eligibility. More on these below.
You can apply for SSI benefits online or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday 7am to 7pm, according to the SSA website.
What’s New about SSI in 2020?
There are some changes to SSI benefits in 2020 that will impact claimants. Whether you are filing a claim in 2020 or are already receiving benefits, it’s important to understand these changes.
Here’s what’s new about SSI in 2020.
SSI Benefits Increased
Although the increase in benefits is not as large as that of the previous year, SSI recipients will see a 1.6% cost of living adjustment, or COLA.
In addition, the SSI Federal Payment Standard increased to $783 per individual or $1,175 per couple. This is the maximum monthly amount of SSI you can receive in 2020.
Blind or disabled students will see a 1.6% increase in income exclusions for 2020, in correlation with the COLA increase, to $1,900 per month but not more than $7,670 of income.
Limits for Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Increased
Substantial Gainful Activity, or SGA, is when someone is earning more than a certain amount of monthly income through gainful employment, which may disqualify them from earning disability benefits.
This limit is calculated based on the national average wage index.
For 2020, the SGA limit for non-blind persons is $1,260 per month, up slightly from $1,220 in 2019.
For blind persons, there is no SGA limit for SSI. An SGA amount of $2,110 per month applies to blind persons seeking Social Security benefits other than SSI.
The Retirement Age Is Going Up
Social Security benefits can play an important role in your retirement plans. Currently if you turn 62 in 2020, your full retirement age is 66 and eight months, and retiring earlier will result in reduced benefits.
For instance, if you retire at the earliest opportunity at age 62, you’ll earn 75% of your SSI benefits, and your spouse will earn 35%.
The full retirement age will increase incrementally each year until it reaches 67 for everyone born after the year 1960.
How Does COVID-19 Impact Your SSI Benefits?
The Treasury Department launched relief efforts in response to economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Economic Impact Payments for those who qualify.
The IRS states that tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns should have received the full payment:
- up to $1,200 for individuals
- up to $2,400 for married couples
- up to $500 for each qualifying child
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), “Please note that we will not consider Economic Impact Payments as income for SSI recipients, and the payments are excluded from resources for 12 months.”
Other impacts of COVID-19 on SSI claims to consider include:
- All Social Security field offices are currently closed.
- Claims and appeals can be managed on the SSA website.
- You may also call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
- Appeals may be held as telephone hearings with an Administrative Law Judge, or a claimant may wait for a video or in-person hearing when normal business resumes.
When Should You Consult an SSI Attorney in Atlanta?
When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA may deny your initial claim. You then need to begin an appeals process within a short period after the initial denial.
Appeals can go through multiple stages, including reconsideration by the SSA, a hearing with an administrative law judge, consideration by the Appeals Council, and even possibly a hearing in federal court.
The right SSI attorney can advocate for you throughout your case and guide you through any necessary appeals. Qualified attorneys will be current on disability law, SSA regulations, and the expectations of those determining your case at each level.
If your Supplemental Security Income claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck and Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 40 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 795-4978.