Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a needs-based government benefit that many personal injury clients receive from the government. It is a safety net program that the federal government established to protect those in serious financial need. It is available in every state for clients that meet specific income guidelines and asset requirements.
In a settlement situation, clients can lose their SSI eligibility if you send them a settlement check without prior planning since it will change their asset situation and put them over the limit for receiving SSI.
SSI is different than SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Clients often don’t understand which benefit they are receiving, they only know that they are receiving social security benefits from the government. Personal injury attorneys need to know whether their client is getting SSI or SSDI, because SSI is needs-based, and sending your client a settlement check will disqualify them from that benefit.
If the client is receiving SSDI, there is no need to worry about sending them a settlement check because it is an entitlement program and not based on the client’s assets. On the other hand, if the client receives SSI, then attorneys need to plan ahead in case of a settlement to ensure that they do not lose their SSI eligibility.
A Quick Way to Determine Which Government Benefit the Client is Receiving
If the client receives less than $783 a month, and they’re on Medicaid, they’re most likely receiving SSI. If they’re receiving over $783 a month and they’re on Medicare, they’re most likely not on SSI, they’re likely receiving SSDI.
As their personal injury attorney, it’s in your interest to accurately identify which benefit the client is receiving. It is difficult to undo the damage when a client receives a settlement check and loses SSI and Medicaid. Clients receiving these benefits tend to be very financially and emotionally attached to them. They will likely be very upset that their benefits weren’t protected before the settlement check was sent to them.
If you’re not sure whether your client is receiving SSI or SSDI, give us a call. We can help you work through it. We can help make sure that you don’t make that mistake.