Understanding SSI Essential Persons | Disability Advisor
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What do I need to know about qualifying for SSI disability with an Essential Person?

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Learn who on SSI has an essential person, how an essential person affects SSI, and why you can’t get an Essential Person when qualifying for SSI disability now.


Essential Person Defined

When the federal government established the SSI program in January 1974 and the Social Security Administration took over the disability and advanced-age cash assistance programs from the states, some state welfare recipients had a person or persons living with them whom the state considered essential to the basic care of the person getting cash assistance. In those cases, the state increased the cash assistance to help support the Essential Person or Persons.

Today an SSI Essential Person is a person who was an Essential Person in December 1973 and who, except for a defined temporary absence, has continued to live continuously with the SSI recipient since December 1973, and who has never been eligible for SSI.

Getting an Essential Person

If you were not receiving public cash assistance based on disability or age and did not have a qualifying Essential Person on January 1, 1974, you cannot have an Essential Person. Stated a bit differently, there is no way to acquire an Essential Person. Further, if you lose an Essential Person, you cannot reinstate an Essential Person when the disqualifying circumstances end.

The Essential Person Payment Increment and Essential Person Deeming

In 2014, SSI pays individuals with an Essential Person an extra $361.00 monthly to help cover the Essential Person’s living expenses; however, the Essential Person’s income and resources count against the SSI recipient’s income and resource limits. This is called deeming. None of the exclusions that apply to deemed income from an ineligible spouse or ineligible parent apply to Essential Person deeming. If the Essential Person has income or resources, all of his or her income and resources count as the SSI recipient’s. For more about spousal and parental deeming see our article “Why Do I Have to Give Information about My Family’s Income and Assets When I Apply for SSI Benefits?

If deeming from an Essential Person causes the SSI recipient to be ineligible or if the SSI recipient chooses, he or she may request termination of the Essential Person increment and be paid based on his or her own income and resources to assure qualifying for SSI. Once the Essential Person payment has been terminated, it cannot be reinstated.

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  1. Myra Brady says:

    My boyfriend and his 27 yr old disabled son live in section 8 housing. The son has been disabled for 15 yrs. My boyfriend has cared for him full time since the accident. My question is: Why does any income take away from my boyfriends son’s benefits? Does that mean if we ever married my income would be considered money to support his son? This is what he believes. Is there any way we would ever be able to be a family and the boy not loose his benefits?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Myra,

      Your boyfriend’s son is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a federal public assistance program for people who have little or no income. It has income and asset limits for eligibility much like food stamps and state and county welfare programs. SSI law assumes that members of a nuclear family (husbands, wives, parents and children in the same household) are financially responsible for one another. If the family has income above the amounts set my SSI law, no benefits will be paid. That said, not all income is countable. If you marry your boyfriend, a certain portion of your income will be allotted for your support and not counted as available for your stepson’s support. If you and your husband have other children, an allotment of your and his income will be made for the other children as well.



  2. Dolores says:

    Hello Kay:

    My name may seem familiar, since we just spoke last week about my “fully favorable” decision. Now, on to the meat and potatoes of my life!! I read the article regarding an “essential person” and have the following questions:

    1) Can the “Essential person be a family member, who does not live with me but help with transporting me to and from appointments, and other errands? I use a wheelchair and have no car, I have been using public transportation, however I live in NY and this winter has been hard. I have to have a family member help me to move around the city, its too much to maneuver myself in the wheelchair, with groceries etc

    2) If the essential person is unemployed and looking for work is this ok?
    3) Do I have to pay the essential person a set amount weekly? (i.e. salary)
    4) I’ve had several personal care assistants thru my insurance but did not like that arrangement (strangers in my own and robbing me blind)!
    This is a better option, as I can choose someone I trust, and pay them accordingly.
    5)What information my I provide to SSA to have this allotment added to my monthly benefit? The essential persons name address #SS ?
    6)My sons biological father lives out of the country, I would prefer him to be the essential person for me, because when I am hospitalized he will come and take care of OUR son. He has since remarried and has 2 other sons. I get no child support because he isn’t a US citizen, and nothing I do here in the US will force him to pay.
    7)Can this be done over the phone, as I mentioned earlier its not easy for me to go to my local office. Can I call the SSA hotline and get the process started? Thanks for your assistance

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Dolores,

      Supplemental Security Income law has a very narrow definition of “essential person.” It applies only people who where switched from state welfare to Supplemental Security Income on January 1, 1974 and who had a person living with them and caring for them for whom the state was paying an essential person supplement. Perhaps you can find someone you know and trust who could become certified to provide services that your insurance will pay for.



  3. kathleen says:

    my mom is disabled after her car accident. she only receives about 400 monthly in disability because she did not work a lot her whole life, my dad did before he passed away. She is 62 + and her ssi is only 360 a month and not 721. I’m wondering if there is a mistake? or reason why my mothers income is only 700 a month total. She did remarry after my dads death and that brought her benefits down to half of what she was getting. she divorced him after 2 years, can she receive what she did before she got married? is there a way to increase her ssi from 360 to 721? since her income is so low? thank you!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Kathleen.

      The maximum FederalSupplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit $721. The maximum is paid to individuals who have countable income of $20 or less per month. I believe that your mother’s connection to benefits on your father’s record was permanently broken by her marriage. She should, however, check with the Social Security Administration to be sure.



  4. stacy says:

    I am on ssi and my son just started working part time last November,was i suppose to report this?If so will they take money away from me?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Stacy,

      Your son’s income does not affect your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment. If your son is eighteen or older and has started to contribute or to shelter or food costs, you need to report that so Social Security can determine whether you are receiving in-kind support and maintenance from your son.





  5. jennifer says:

    i have a daughter 16, who has been diagnosed since age 3 with Aspergers syndrome a autism spectral disorder. she receives ssdi i believe does this as her parent make me an essential person?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      I believe that your daughter receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), not SSDI, which is a Social Security Disability benefit paid to adults. You do not qualify to be an essential person. The only people designated as an “essential person” are those for whom an increment was being paid by the state welfare system in December 1973, the month before state disability welfare recipients were transferred to the at-that-time-new federal SSI program.


  6. shay says:

    If I have a newborn baby do I need to report it to the ssa and will my benefits increased now that I have a baby?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Shay,

      If you are receiving Social Security Disability, benefits may be payable for your new dependent. If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and you have a husband whose income is considered in determining your payment amount, having a child in the household could increase your benefit amount if you are not already receiving the maximum. If either of these applies, you should report the birth of the child as soon as you have the birth certificate.


  7. Brandy says:

    I have a question for you, my son is disabled and receives ssi, I am hearing that due to me not working and being his care giver I am to be paid for this. I have never heard anything on this before, then I found this essential person stuff. I read above that I am not qualified for this. My question is have you heard of being paid for being the caregiver and if so how do I go about that?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Brandy,

      You are right that you do not qualify as an SSI essential person. Some states pay a small amount to relative caregivers. Contact your state’s health and human services to see if your state has such a program.


  8. lakisha miller says:

    I already receive SSI for my ADHD son, and just filed for my 3y/o premature death son. My total income is 721 ! Will he be considered as an essential person or will this be a whole new different case and will his payments be lower since my income is over $20?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lakisha,

      First, I assume that you meant your three-year-old premature-birth son. Your sons’ claims are separate. The amount of your income that is deemed available for support of your children will be split evenly between the two.


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