Will a Car Accident Settlement Affect My SSI Benefits?
Supplemental Security Income, commonly called SSI, provides critical financial support for thousands of Oklahomans and millions of Americans throughout the U.S. An Oklahoma City car accident settlement can impact your monthly SSI payments, but with help from an experienced attorney, it may be possible to avoid losing your benefits.
Social Security Administration SSI Statistics for Oklahoma
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), approximately 65.5 million Americans were Social Security beneficiaries as of March 2016. About 8.4% of these beneficiaries – roughly 5.5 million people – exclusively receive SSI. There are just under 100,000 SSI recipients in the state of Oklahoma, with the largest numbers of recipients residing in Oklahoma County (roughly 19,400 people) followed by Tulsa County (roughly 14,800 people).
Unlike SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), for which eligibility depends on the applicant’s employment history and the number of “work credits” they have earned, SSI is intended for low-income individuals diagnosed with severe, long-term disabilities that prevent them from working full-time. People who earn countable income above a certain monthly threshold, which is known as the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), are ineligible to receive SSI benefits because they are not considered to be low-income by the SSA.
The FBR typically changes from year to year to account for inflation. However, the 2016 FBR remains unchanged from the 2015 FBR of $733 per month for single individuals and $1,100 for married couples. The FBR represents not only the monthly earnings limit on countable income, but also the maximum monthly payment an SSI recipient can receive.
How Supplemental Security Income is Impacted by a Personal Injury Settlement
An SSI applicant has to meet various criteria in order to be eligible to receive benefits. One of these criteria is earning less countable monthly income than $733. Put simply, your “countable” income is whatever money is left over after you exclude:
- All items which aren’t income from employment
- The SSA’s numerous income exclusions for the SSI program, which include:
- HUD-related rent subsidies (e.g. Section 8 housing)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps
- The first $20 each month
The applicant’s “resources” are also considered toward the income limit, including:
- Cars used for regular transportation
- Household items and personal items
- Burial plots
- Life insurance policies with a maximum face value of $1,500 per person
An SSI recipient’s combined resources must not exceed a value of:
- $2,000 for single individuals
- $3,000 for married couples
The compensation from a car accident settlement can cause your monthly income to surpass the FBR threshold enforced by the SSA. If your settlement causes you to earn more than the monthly limit, you could lose your eligibility for SSI benefits, or see a substantial reduction in your monthly SSI payments.
You must report any changes in your income to the SSA. Upon reviewing your information, the SSA should send you a notice informing you that you are over the SSI income limit and that your benefits will be reduced or terminated, which will generally lead to a loss of your Medicaid coverage. However, you may be able to avoid this situation by setting up a Special Needs Trust, which will allow you to remain eligible for SSI benefits and Medicaid coverage. Creating a Special Needs Trust is a complex process, so you should consult with an experienced attorney for help getting started.
Contact Our Oklahoma City Car Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation
An Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer of Hasbrook & Hasbrook brings years of experience to every claim. We have an in-depth knowledge of the tactics insurers use to deny valid claims and undervalue serious injuries, and will protect your rights aggressively during the negotiation process. If out-of-court negotiations don’t result in an acceptable settlement offer, our auto accident attorneys are more than ready to take your case to court. We will do all in our power to obtain the greatest compensation possible for you and your family.
Call the law offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook right away at (405) 698-3040 to set up a free legal consultation. We will keep your information confidential. Our personal injury attorneys handle car accident claims in Oklahoma City and the surrounding communities, including Edmond, Norman, Moore, Tuttle, El Reno, McLoud, Shawnee, and more.