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How does the Social Security Administration decide how much SSI to pay me when I get an SSI approval?

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Learn how SSI benefits are calculated after an SSI approval and what kinds of income are countable when determining your SSI payment amount.

ssi-approval

When SSI Benefits Start

After an SSI approval, benefits will be paid for the first full calendar month after you apply or after you become eligible for SSI, whichever is later.

The SSI Payment Formula

The Social Security Administration, known as SSA, figures your federal SSI benefit by deducting your countable unearned income and your countable earned income from the maximum Federal Benefit Amount of $721 for individuals and $1,082 for a couple. The remainder is your Federal Amount Payable. Some examples will follow later in this article.

State Supplements

Some states pay a supplementary benefit to individuals who qualify for SSI or do not qualify only because of income or resources that are above the federal limits but below the state’s limits. Some states administer their own supplements and require application or contact with the state. Other states turn the administration of their state supplement over to the Social Security Administration. If your state has a supplement that you could qualify for and the state handles its own administration, your Social Security office will direct you to the appropriate agency to make application. For a list of states with state supplements, see “Index of States That Supplement Payment When You Apply for SSI Benefits.”

When Income is Counted for SSI

After you get an SSI approval, your ongoing financial eligibility for SSI is decided on a month-by-month basis. This means you can be eligible in one month, not in the next, and then eligible again in the following month.

Your first three months of benefits are calculated based on your income in the first month of eligibility. After that, unless eligibility is interrupted, your payment will usually be based on income received two months before. For example, if you became eligible in March 2014, your countable income, including deemed income, that you received in March 2014 would determine your payment amount in March, April and May 2014. Then April’s income would determine June’s payment; May’s income would determine your July payment, and so on. From this example, we can see how important it is to report changes by the tenth of the month after the change. Reporting on time minimizes underpayments and overpayments, which you might have to repay.

If eligibility is interrupted, the next three months are calculated based on income in the first month eligibility is reestablished. For example, if you received benefits from March 2014 through August 2014 and then were ineligible for payment in September because of excess income or resources, when your benefits resumed in October 2014, your October, November, and December 2014 SSI disability benefits would be calculated using your October income. This calculation convention is also used when an adult SSI recipient or the parents of a child receiving SSI have a change in marital status.

For a discussion of which types of income are countable and which are not, please see our articles “I Want to Work. Can You Tell Me How to Get SSI While Working?” and “When I Complete My SSI Application Form, It Asks Me to Declare My Income. Does All My Income Affect My SSI?

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30 Comments

  1. Patty says:

    kay, I became disabled August of 09 but did not file for disability until November 2013.. i have been approved but was wondering how far back will i get back pay or retro pay. Thanks!

  2. Kristina says:

    My son was approved for ssi benefits. He received his first payment on February 3 Rd. When I went to the office on Friday to try to get an award letter because i hadn’t received one, I was told that his payment for March would be zero because of the amount they estimated my husband made for January. However, their estimate was way off from what he actually made. Will they get an actual amount from my husbands employer? Should I bring in my husbands paystubs for January to the office on Monday?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Kristina,

      You are responsible for providing proof of your husband’s earnings, which do affect your son’s benefit amount, so yes, do take your husband’s pay stubs to the office. Be sure that they take a copy and return the originals to you.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  3. Jennifer says:

    If i have been receiving cash assistance from dta/welfare while waiting for my ssdi to be approved am i responsible to pay all that back to welfare and how far back. That would basically be all my backpay im praying no i would appreciate so feedback if anyone knows the answer plz email me at Jennifer113@gmail thanku

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      Your welfare office can tell you how far back you will have to repay the assistance that you have received. I would expect it to be at least back to the date of your Social Security entitlement. If you are approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, the money will be withheld from your back pay and paid directly to the state or county agency that assisted you. If you are approved for Social Security only, you will need to make the repayment yourself.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  4. Sharon Cook says:

    I got approved for my SSI on February 7th, 2014 after fighting for 4 yrs, When will I get my first monthly check?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Sharon,

      It will likely be a few weeks before you receive your first Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment. You will need to submit financial information going back to when you first applied so that the Social Security Administration can determine whether you were financially eligible during the whole time and, if so, for how much each month. Your regular monthly payment will probably be paid first and then the retroactive benefits will be paid in installments six months apart.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  5. Kim Phipps says:

    My 6-month old son just received his first check last week. How do I know if the check is back pay or the monthly amount? Also, why were there no instructions included such as what the money can be spent on?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Kim,

      If the amount of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check was more than $721, the check is back pay.

      As your son’s representative payee, you must use the funds for his needs–food, shelter, diapers, medical care, childcare if you are working, etc. If any amount is not needed, it should be saved for his future needs. You can get a pamphlet from the Social Security Administration that describes your responsibilities. You should keep a written record of how you spend the money so that when you are asked to complete an accounting once a year, you will have the information you need nice and handy.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

      • Kim Phipps says:

        Thank you so much for your reply! My only other question is this: if I received back-pay, isn’t that only to be used for medical expenses? Thank you again for being so helpful.

  6. Roxy says:

    Hey,
    What if child support paid back the welfare for what I received well waiting for ssi to be approved. Would they still take the amount or give back the child support? Im still waiting on decision of how much they will give me back.

    Thanks

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Roxy,

      You need to check with the welfare office for a fully informed answer, but I believe that if you do not owe any money paid by welfare and you do not owe back child support, no money will be withheld from benefits paid by the Social Security Administration.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  7. Elora says:

    My husband was told by his local case worker that his first installment of backpay for ssi was released on March 13th. We have had the Ditect Express xard for about a month now and have been checking it frequently. The ssa website says a one time deposit was made on 3/14/14 but today is the 16th and no $$ on the card still?? Is there something wrong?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Elora,

      It can take a couple of nightly bank runs to transfer funds. Hopefully, the payment has loaded to your card by now. If it has not, you need to report non-receipt to the Social Security Administration.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  8. heather says:

    hi,
    i have a question i got approved for social security February 21st 2014 and they owe me back pay from January 2012 what should i get first and when should i receive my first payment
    thank you and have a wonderful day

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Heather,

      If you did not also file a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim, you may get your retroactive payment first though that is not guaranteed. The amount you will receive will depending on your earnings before becoming disabled and your age. You can request an earnings statement either online at http://www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213 that will estimate your monthly benefit. Multiply that times the number of months since January 2012.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  9. Jess says:

    My son was just approved for SSI. We’re waiting for the last step, verifying income. He receives $198 per month in child support. I know SSA will deduct some of the funds for that. However, I don’t work and we live with my grandparents. I don’t pay rent but I am responsible for myself and son.

    I receive money from SNAP and I use the child support money (which isn’t much) for any extras like clothes or the occasional game. I don’t have a car or assets. I don’t receive money from the grandparents, only shelter (which I of course appreciate). My concern is that since we live with my grandparents SSI will look at their income as well. I’ve talked to 20 different SSA workers and received different answers every time. Some say the grandparents’ income won’t be taken into account, others say it may.

    This seems like a very unique question and I’ve had problems finding an answer. Thank you.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jess,

      Your grandparents’ income will not be considered in determining your son’s SSI payment amount. Initially his payments will reduced for free shelter by an amount equal to the lesser of one-third of the maximum possible benefit and his prorata share of shelter expenses. For example, if there are four of you in the household, his share would be one-quarter of the shelter expenses. For example, if the rent (or mortgage and property taxes) and utilities (excluding phone) come to $1,600 a month, his share would be $400; however,one-third of the maximum SSI is $240.33, so his SSI benefit would be reduced by that amount. Once he starts getting benefits, you can start paying his share of shelter expenses to his grandparents. Two months after he starts paying his share, his SSI will be increased by $240.33.
      (Your grandparents will have to provide proof the the shelter expenses and make a statement that you are paying his share once that happens.)

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  10. Juicyduke says:

    I applied for ssi benefits for my child in April of 2012. I was denied in August 2012. I did not appeal. I filed again in January 2014 and we just got approved March 31. Will my child receive backpay from the first time we applied and were denied or only from the latest application since we didn’t appeal?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Juicy,

      Because you did not appeal the first denial, your child’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will be based on the January 2014 application.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  11. Matthew says:

    I had got approved for SSI and was receiving the minimum and know that I am married and my wife is my payee can I still get more money since now I am a couple or is it just with certain states a use I am from Texas

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Matthew,

      No SSI is paid for dependents, so getting married will not increase your SSI.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  12. dolphingirl89 says:

    I am aready getting SSI/SSA and was wondering If I moved in with my grandfather, would my benefit be decreased. I already talked to him and would be giving him 300 a month for my room and the cost of bills. Plus buying my own food and making meals seperate.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Dolphin Girl,

      Your Social Security Disability will not be affected by moving in with your grandfather.

      If you live in his home as a renter and if $300 plus utilities is market value for the room (the amount he would charge anyone) and you buy your own food, your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should not go down. You do need to report your move to Social Security. You will need a statement from your grandfather including the date you move in, that he’s renting you a room and the amount you will pay for rent and utilities and the fact that you will buy your own food.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

      • dolphingirl89 says:

        ok thank you and what would iit do for his ssi?? it wont go down will it??

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Dolphin Girl,

          If your grandfather is getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and not Social Security, your being a boarder and paying rent may cause his SSI to go dow because the rent you pay him may be treated as income. If it is affordable for you, you could move in as a member of his household, instead of as a renter, and pay half of the rent or mortgage and half the utilities, while buying your own food. If you did this neither your or your grandfather’s SSI would be decreased. If you want to or need to stick to your original plan of paying rent, I suggest that before you move in you and your grandfather go to a Social Security office and find out for sure whether your being a boarder and paying rent will result in a decrease in his benefits.

          Sincerely,

          Kay

  13. Amazing Mom says:

    If my son was approved for social security March 3rd when will I receive his first payment

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Amazing Mom,

      Payment can take from a few weeks to two months or more to begin depending whether your son is eligible for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income Disability or both and on current workloads in the local office and/or payment center. You can contact the local office to find out what, if anything, you need to submit to get payment started.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

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