What do I need to know about qualifying for SSI disability with an Essential Person?

By / Supplemental Security Income / 41 Comments

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. Given that Essential Person benefits are based on a status that had to have been in effect more than forty years ago, very few people currently received benefits for an Essential Person.

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 2020, SSI pays individuals with an Essential Person an extra $392.00 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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