Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Viewer Mail - can you make too much to get SSI?

A reader writes:

"What happens if you retire at 62 and make more money than you are suppose to make while receiving Supplemental Security Income?"

Answer: You don't collect, then.  Or you collect less.

SSI is a slightly different beast than Social Security.  Social Security is (in theory) an entitlement program for which you pay into, in the form of Social Security Taxes (matched 100% by your employer) and which you "withdraw" from when you retire.

It is a nice fiction, of course. You pay taxes into Social Security, and those pay the people who are retired.  When you retire, some guy working pays for your retirement - that is the reality of it.

Supplemental Security Income is another government program, funded by the general revenue, that provides additional money to the elderly, infirm, blind, or handicapped and have little or no other income.

To determine if you qualify for SSI, they have a "screening tool" which you can use to see if you qualify.

Of course, the entire purpose of this screening tool is to weed out people who don't need the money.  If you are disabled, blind, or otherwise qualify for SSI, and then you retire and start living large on your IRA, then no, you are not qualified to receive charity money from the government.

And it is likely a crime to continue to receive benefits, if your financial condition changes - that is called fraud.

Also, if you worked during your life, when you hit 62, you may be eligible to revive regular Social Security, and your SSI benefits may be decreased accordingly.  Again, you can't collect twice and make out like a bandit - that is stealing.

The best thing to do is go to your local Social Security office - or call them - and ask them what your options are.  You may be able to delay drawing from Social Security until you are 65 or later, perhaps.

But to try to cheat the system?  Sorry, no sale.

SSI is a safety net designed to help people when they have no other options.  If you have other options, by definition, you do not qualify.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but my income taxes support this program, and if you cheat the government, you are cheating me.

And I can see your IP address.....