Abromson & Carey, Attorneys at Law
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Supplemental Security Income and child support

The Supplemental Security Income program provides means-tested benefits for children with disabilities. New Jersey does not allow these benefits to be credited against child support provided by the child's non-custodial parent.

A child must meet SSI eligibility requirements by having a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment or an emotional or learning problem that results in marked and severe functional limitations and which is expected to last continuously for at least 12 months or result in death. Adults must show that they are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity for over $1,170 each month for 2017.

For calculating SSI benefits, the value of the assets owned by the applicant must be less than $2,000 for a single person without including the value of their home and car. The current federal benefit rate is $735 per person.

This amount, however, is reduced by the person's countable income. This is the amount that remains after eliminating items that are not counted as income and which are excluded from this calculation. A SSI beneficiary may earn a certain amount of income and continue to receive SSI. However, benefits will continue if this income falls below the substantial gainful activity amount.

In New Jersey, SSI considers child support and maintenance as unearned income, because these are treated as the child's assets. This support typically disqualifies the child for government benefits.

A child qualifying for SSI, however, is automatically eligible for Medicaid and SSI-related benefits. Qualifying for these benefits may be essential for a child with special needs.

Creation of a special needs trust may allow SSI benefits to continue with child support or maintenance because trust assets are not calculated for SSI eligibility calculations. Trust contents may also be excluded from income if the state receives all trust assets when the beneficiary dies equal to the amount of medical assistance paid under the state plan. The trust must solely benefit the beneficiary, be irrevocable and supplement or lower government assistance.

A pool trust is a self-settled trust established by a nonprofit organization that maintains eligibility for benefits. A supplemental benefits trust is funded with third party assets where the child has no control or access to its funds.

While certain income requirements must be met for both children and adults, for those who qualify, SSI benefits may be the financial lifeline they need. An attorney can assist applicants with obtaining and keeping SSI.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, "New child support statute, disabled children and protecting access to benefits," Kory Ann Ferro, May 15 2017

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