Why are Living Arrangements Addressed During an SSI Application?
The answer is really quite simple at first glance if you think about the nature of the Supplemental Security Income disability program. SSI is a need based disability program; consequently an SSI beneficiary’s disability benefit amount is dependent upon an individual’s actual need.
Current statistics indicate that 6.3 million Americans receive an SSI benefit. Approximately 43 percent of those recipients live in shared households, 36 percent live on their own, 5 percent live in institutions, and 13 percent live with their spouse or spouse and children. Nearly half of all SSI recipients live in households that involve other individuals.
From the vantage point of the federal government, in order for the program to provide equal and fair treatment for all beneficiaries, Social Security must take into account that some individuals are living on their own and paying all of their bills with their SSI disability benefits and some are not. It would not be fair for one SSI disability recipient to pay all of their own bills, and another have their bills paid in part or fully by other individuals, while both are receiving the same disability benefit amount.
For example, if an SSI disability recipient is living in a household with six other individuals, the household bills should be divided amongst the seven members of the household. From the viewpoint of the social security administration, if the SSI recipient is not paying their one seventh of the bills their benefit should be reduced.
Social Security determines the amount of an individual’s SSI disability benefits based upon income (help with food, shelter, or household bills can be considered income in the SSI program). Consequently, an individual’s benefit may be reduced if they are living with someone or in a household, and the other member or members of the household are paying more, or all, of the household bill’s for food, shelter, and utilities.
Individuals may only receive maximum SSI benefits if they are living on their own (paying their own bills---if their bills are being paid by another individual their SSI benefits are subject to reduction even if they live alone) or if they are paying their fair share of the household bills.
Social Security will never take an individual’s entire disability benefit because of living arrangements; in fact the maximum amount an individual’s SSI benefit may be reduced because of their living arrangements is one third.
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