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.
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?“