Q: The Judge issued a fully favorable decision on my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim. Why is Social Security telling me I still need to prove I qualify for benefits?
A: Even though you won your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits claim, there will be one last review before the Social Security Administration (SSA) pays you. This review is financial in nature (not related to your medical condition) and is known as the Pre-effectuation Review Contact or PERC. You can read more about the PERC in the SSA Operations Manual. It is an integral part of the SSI process, and can represent the final hurdle to securing monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
SSI’s Financial Requirements
SSI Claimants will recall that there are strict financial limits on who can receive SSI benefits. Individuals may only have $2,000 in assets (not including their home and one car), and the limit for married people is $3,000. Additionally, most income about $65 per month will result in a reduction of monthly SSI benefits. It is important to note that that PERC process only applies to SSI or concurrent (SSI and SSDI) applicants. Claimants who secure only SSDI benefits based on their work history will not be required to undergo the PERC.
Because of the SSI financial limits, a couple of weeks after being informed of your Favorable SSI Decision, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will schedule a call to conduct the PERC. You WILL NOT receive any benefits until this call is conducted, and failure to appear for the call can result in your claim being closed. The purpose of the PERC is to establish that you met the financial requirements of SSI during any time when SSI could be payable because of your medical condition.
Preparing for the PERC is a relatively straightforward process but can require documentation. The Social Security Administration may require documentation including:
- money provided by family
- money earned from even small amounts of work
- bank statements or brokerage statements
- income tax refunds
- any public assistance received
- information about any property you own
- information about any property you rent
- information regarding any private disability payments you receive
One major item to note during the PERC is SSI’s rules regarding living arrangements. When someone else provides food or shelter for your rent, mortgage, food, or utilities, this is called “in-kind support” and your benefits may be reduced. For this reason, it is good practice to have documentation of the support you receive, and to have a written lease agreement even if you are renting from a family member. Additionally, if the SSI recipient has been living rent free during the application process, but there is a documented expectation that the recipient will pay back the person who provided this support, reductions may potentially be avoided.
While the PERC presents a final hurdle in security SSI benefits, it generally is a smooth process that finishes quickly. Being prepared with honest answers to financial questions is of the utmost importance when navigating the PERC process.