SSI Benefits For A Family Member With Mental Issues

By / January 8, 2017 / SSI Benefits / 7 Comments

Learn how an adult with mental issues may own a home and still qualify for Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits to help pay monthly expenses.

Dear Disability Advisor,

My 56 year old brother in law has not worked since he has been 22 years old.  When he was 18 his parents had him committed with scizophrenia briefly for a week or so, he begged them to come home and they let him.  He never went for treatment, went off his meds and the rest of the children left the home, got married and got on with life,  He continued to live at his parents house and they never forced him to get help, a job or see a doctor…fast forward 34 years and his parents are in assisted living in their mid eighties and now it is falling on us to help him.  The other two siblings washed their hands of it.  He still has his mental issues and thinks his nose is messed up and has had over 100k of surgery lol..and his nose is beautiful.  The issue is he would definetely qualify for SS if we could get him to admit he has a problem and also see a Dr. but he is living on the streets, has over $100 k in bank ands 15k of gold strapped to him in gold coins.  He’s pyranoid of the government or authority figures, he feels that life has been unfair to him because his nose and it has disfigured his face (which of course is not true.)  We would like to help him maybe buy a little land and maybe a mobile home cash but how will he pay his monthly expenses??  So what are our options in regards to getting SS for someone who would def meet all the requirements of disability (mentally) but will not admit he needs the help? Desperate in Arizona, Audrey

Dear Audrey,

I am sorry that you are dealing with such a difficult issue: that of trying to help an uncooperative family member suffering from mental illness. Not only is this a complex problem but it also takes an emotional toll on everyone, including people like you who are desperate to find a solution.

First, let me explain that your brother-in-law is not eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. A person must earn a certain number of credits (generally 20 to 40 yearly quarters of work) during the most recent 10 years prior to becoming disabled. You said he had not worked for many years so this benefit is not available to him. The other type of benefit is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which you could help him obtain with some specific action.

SSI is based on evaluations of financial assets and health. Generally, a person cannot have assets (other than a home he or she is living in) of more than $2,000.  So you could help him purchase a land and mobile home with his money and even pay in advance a year’s insurance and taxes to reduce his countable assets to $2,000. The next step is to get him to go for a psychological consultation to evaluate his medical condition. This does not mean he has to go for or be in treatment but a written evaluation is another part of the submission process.  If you are able to persuade him to cooperate with both these actions, you will have the information to complete a request for SSI benefits.  These benefits may be enough for him to live on his own more comfortably.

However, your greatest obstacle is getting him to understand and agree to this plan of action that may yield a better future for him, at least from your perspective.  For your own peace of mind, you might look for mental health resources in your community to discuss the situation with professionals who are familiar with problems like yours. An excellent start is at Mental Health America of Arizona ( where you can get information, learn more about the specifics of mental health disability, and find counselors and other resources to help you.

I applaud your patience in tackling this issue with your brother-in-law and hope this information is helpful in finding a good resolution.


Jackie Booth, Ph.D.

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  • Dear Natalie,

    For your claim to be approved you will have to have medical documentation of your diagnoses and the severity of your symptoms. If you do not have medical records, it is likely you will be asked to attend a consultative examination for evaluation. The exam will be paid for by the Social Security Administration. As far as getting help, I suggest contacting your state social services office to find out whether you can apply for Medicaid insurance so you can get treatment. Also, in some communities, there are free or very low-cost mental health clinics where you might be able to get some treatment.


  • Dear Angelia,

    I would expect you to receive a hearing date within a month and when you get the date, it will be about three weeks in the future at that time. If you have not been submitting recent medical and psychological/cognitive records for your cousin, gather her records for the last year and try to submit them before the hearing. Especially important may be any IQ tests she has had.


  • You are welcome, Cynthia.

  • Dear Trish,

    To increase your chances of being approved, you do need an attorney to present your case at the hearing. The attorneys are eager to take your case because they think they have a good chance of winning for you and they get paid if you do get benefits. Here’s how it works:

    When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount the attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your back pay. Fees are limited to 25% of back pay up to $6,000. No fees are withheld from ongoing monthly benefits.


  • Dear Cynthia,

    If you were approved for Social Security Disability (SSD), your SSD claim will be sent to a central payment center, where they will double check that you were insured on the date of your established date of disability, apply any offsets you might have for SSI (see below), workers compensation, or public pension. They will calculate and authorize payment. This can take two months or more.

    If you were approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your local Social Security office will calculate and authorize SSI payment. They will contact you for a financial update so that benefits can be calculated for past months. Usually you will be paid within a month of the update interview and submission of any requested documents. If you were approved for both, SSD benefit calculation will not be completed until SSI has been processed to payment. SSD back benefits will be reduced by the amount of SSI benefits payable for the months in which SSD and SSI eligibility overlap. Typically SSI back pay is paid in up to three installments six months apart and the first two will not exceed $2,205. However, if after your Social Security starts you are no longer eligible for SSI, you can request the remaining SSI installments to be released.


  • You are welcome, James.

  • Dear James,

    I suggest that you call the disability examiner to see if you need to submit anything else such as the January 10 office visit and if not whether he or she can give a reasonable rough estimate of when you will get a decision.


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