Personal Injury Settlement Awards And SSI Benefits
Note that Eisenberg Law is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin and so we are familiar with Wisconsin law. If you are outside Wisconsin, please contact an attorney in your state as we are not familiar with the laws in other states and will not be able to give you advice.
One question that we are asked quite often from our clients and their families is how a personal injury settlement will affect their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The short answer is “Yes, a personal injury settlement will likely affect your SSI benefits.”
Let’s take a look at why this is the case and what you can do to protect your benefits.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides a monthly stipend to disabled children and adults who have limited income and to people age 65 and older who meet the financial limits. In order to qualify, countable assets must be less than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
Click here for a full list of what sorts of income, assets, and changes must be reported under the SSI program.
Because program benefits are “need based” or “resource based”, an injury settlement will impact the SSI benefits received. Monetary settlements change the amount of unearned income a person receives. Unearned income is one of the resources the Social Security Administration looks at when determining eligibility for SSI benefits.
If the award pushes your income over the $2,000 or $3,000 threshold, your benefits may be terminated.
SSI, SSDI, And Social Security Income Are Not The Same Thing
It’s important to clarify that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is different from Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). SSDI benefits are not dependent on your income and, therefore, are not affected by injury settlements. SSDI benefits are provided when a person have a severe, long-lasting disability that affects his/her ability to work. Since the settlement is not earned income, it should not affect your receipt of SSDI benefits.
SSI is also separate and distinct from Social Security Income, which workers paid through the Social Security Payroll Tax when they were working. Social Security Income is not affected by a personal injury case, because it is not need based. It is based on income you earned and taxes you paid. Social Security Income is also unaffected by personal injury settlements.
Protecting Your SSI Benefits
SSI benefits provide critical income and other income-based qualification benefits for vulnerable individuals. These individuals should not be forced to choose whether or not to accept damages resulting from a personal injury case or risk losing their SSI benefits.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your SSI benefits and accept settlement awards. One of the best options is to set up a special needs trust. This trust allows injured parties to keep settlement proceeds and keep their SSI benefits. The special needs trust can be used to cover services that are not covered by SSI programs such as transportation, nursing care, or therapies.
Consult Eisenberg Law About Your Personal Injury Settlement Options
If you receive SSI benefits, it’s very important to share that information with your personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Together, you and your attorney can discuss your options for protecting your SSI income if you win a settlement. Your attorney should also be able to help you set up a special needs trust to protect your settlement income.