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The government may be able to offer you financial assistance if you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury. But figuring out what (and how much) you can get isn’t always clear. If you have a settlement coming from a personal injury claim, that money can also lessen your financial burden, but it can lead to even more uncertainty in financial planning. We’re here to help. Today, we’re talking about Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and whether this benefits program might be able to help you if you’ve been injured.

What is Supplemental Security Income?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based supplement program. It provides certain individuals with cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Beneficiaries of SSI include the elderly, blind, and those with disabilities. Adults are considered disabled if they have a long-term physical and/or mental condition that keeps them from working. 

SSI is a means-tested program. In other words, the SSI benefits a person receives depends on his or her income and living arrangements. The best way to determine if you are eligible for SSI is to use the Social Security Administration’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. After answering a few questions, you will find out which government benefits programs, if any, you qualify for. There is also helpful information about the next steps for applying.

Keeping SSI after a personal injury settlement

Because settlements and jury awards are income, SSI beneficiaries must plan carefully if they are going to receive a recovery from a personal injury claim. 

A large lump sum from a settlement can cause a person to lose eligibility for SSI and other benefits. Instead of discontinuing benefits after settlement, however, individuals in this situation have several options. For example, they can establish a special needs trust to supplement government benefits by paying for non-covered services or equipment. They can also re-qualify for benefits through a spend-down. A spend-down is a methodical way to avoid incurring income that goes above and beyond the amount that allows a person to remain eligible. Spending should be limited to exempt resources – those that are not covered by SSI. They should also be solely for the benefit of the recipient.

If you are approaching settlement in a personal injury case and you’re an SSI beneficiary, you may need to take action to maintain eligibility for your benefits. Feel free to contact Milestone if you have questions.