Our SSI Experience
First published October 7, 2011.
Our family originally qualified for Supplementary Security Income for Cody when he was four years old. I was a single mother, not working at the time and my husband, Bill, and I were not yet married. So qualifying for this benefit with a four-year-old boy with autism was a pretty cut-and-dried process.
But then a few months later, I went back to work and Bill and I were married soon after. That’s when everything changed. Our family income had increased past the limits set forth by the Social Security Administration and Cody’s SSI benefits were terminated.
After Cody turned 18 things changed again. Since Cody was legally an adult, we were allowed to reapply for SSI benefits based solely on his personal income and any assets he owned. Thus, obtaining benefits for us was a relatively simple process.
We were fortunate in the sense that when I called the local Social Security Office, they were very straightforward about telling us exactly what we needed to bring with us in the way of documentation and that on the day we would come to apply for benefits, we would need to complete a form upon our arrival and what kinds of questions would be on the form.
After completing the forms from the Social Security Office, we needed proof of identity which we supplied in the way of Cody’s Social Security card and birth certificate. Then, we also had to supply proof of Cody’s autism. So, we provided a letter from Cody’s pediatric neurologist which stated that he had treated Cody since the age of 11 and it also gave a synopsis of his diagnosis. And lastly, in order for the Social Security Office to be able to make funds payable to me, as Cody’s mother and guardian, we had to show our certificate of legal guardianship which we had obtained through the family court system approximately a month before Cody’s eighteenth birthday.
Once we had all of our paperwork together we went to our local Social Security Office, filled out their required form and waited for our interview.
Finally, our names were called to meet with one of the agents. Upon submitting the completed form and the paperwork we had been told we needed to supply to verify that Cody met the criteria, the agent asked questions regarding when Cody had originally been diagnosed, whether he had ever received SSI before, and his personal income and assets. The process took about 30 minutes and then we waited for final approval. From start to finish the entire process took about a week’s time. We filed for Cody’s SSI in the same month as his eighteenth birthday and started receiving benefits the following month. But other parents and guardians I know have filed at a later date. Once their cases were approved by the Social Security Administration, they received retroactive funds going back to the month of the individual’s eighteenth birthday.
The funds we receive can now be used for a portion of household bills such as mortgage payments, utilities, telephone, groceries and other household items. We can also use the money for transportation, Cody’s clothing expenses, any medical bills not covered by Medicaid or other health insurance, furniture for his room or to pay for any educational/life skill materials he might need. But the funds we receive do not nearly cover all of Cody’s monthly expenses.
Every year in the month of June, we receive a reconciliation form that we must complete to account for how we used the total funds for the entire year. Given the fact that there are four people in our household, we can include 25% of our household bills, in addition to Cody’s clothing, medical, transportation and other personal items. Even with the past cost-of-living increases that have been awarded to recipients who receive monies for SSI and other Social Security programs, the total funds we receive per year have yet to exceed two-thirds of the sum total of Cody’s share of household bills and his personal expenses. Nevertheless, it has been a great blessing and I am most grateful.