Social Security disability and local assistance programs

The interaction between various assistance programs can become confusing, as a recent article illustrates.

The article addressed the situation of a woman who recently qualified for Social Security disability insurance benefits. She also has an adult daughter who is a long-time beneficiary of Supplemental Security Income payments on the basis of Down Syndrome.

After the mother became disabled, the Social Security Administration informed the mother that the daughter would have to switch to SSDI payments, even though the adult daughter lived in her own apartment, separate from the mother. The daughter’s switch to SSDI benefits actually resulted in a slightly larger payment each month from the SSA. However, it did cause the daughter to lose her Section 8 housing vouchers and food stamps.

A disability attorney might not be surprised by this story. SSI eligibility is based on financial hardship, rather than work history. However, the determination of financial hardship is dependent on a disabled individual exhausting all available forms of assistance.

In this case, the mother’s recent qualification for SSDI payments meant that her daughter also could newly qualify for SSDI monthly payments, based on the mother’s benefits. When a new benefits source became available to the daughter, it ended her SSI eligibility.

Fortunately, an attorney that regularly represents clients seeking disability assistance may be able to explain the interaction of various federal and state programs. In the case of Social Security disability benefits, an SSI recipient is automatically approved for Medicaid benefits in many states, and an SSDI recipient may quickly qualify for Medicare. However, other agencies or programs may have separate requirements. An attorney can help navigate this complex terrain.

Source: PBS News Hour, “How Social Security could affect your eligibility for food stamps or other public assistance,” Laurence Kotlikoff, Feb. 10, 2014