If you have a disability, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you have a disability that makes it impossible for you to work at all, or if you can only work part-time, you might be eligible for SSI when you leave foster care.
How will SSI help me?
SSI means you receive a monthly payment to help cover your living expenses. In addition, SSI has several programs that can help you go to work, get a good job that may lead to a career, save more money and become financially independent. You can also go to school and receive loans while receiving SSI.
How long does SSI last?
You can receive SSI for as long as your disability continues and you do not have other income above a certain amount. The Social Security office will review your situation from time to time to be sure that your disability continues to meet the requirements for receiving SSI.
What is a disability?
A disability can be a mental or physical impairment, that has lasted (or is expected to last) for 12 months or more.
How do I apply?
If you are still in foster care and are between the ages of 16.5 and 17.5, California law requires that your social worker or attorney submit an application for SSI for you. Talk to your social worker and your court appointed attorney to be sure this gets done.
If you are still in foster care, but are older than 17.5, ask your social worker and your court appointed attorney to help you with the application. If they will not, ask them to refer you to someone who can. If you are in foster care through L.A. County, you can call the Alliance for Children’s Rights at 213.368.6010. If you are already out of foster care, you can schedule an appointment with a local Social Security office to file an application. Call 1.800.772.1213 (TTY 1.800.325.0778) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
If you have applied on your own, you should receive a letter from Social Security within a few months of application. If you have been denied, DON’T GIVE UP. It is very common to be denied at first. Follow the directions on the letter about how to appeal.
When applying you will give Social Security permission to contact your doctors and gather your medical records to evaluate them. Sometimes Social Security will ask you to see one of their doctors as well.
How long will it take?
It could take Social Security anywhere from 4 months to a year or more to decide whether you are eligible to receive benefits. If you are out of foster care, you should consider applying for General Relief/General Assistance and CalFresh while you are waiting. Contact the Department of Social or Human Services in your county of residence for more information.
Read all letters you get from Social Security carefully for next steps and report any changes in your address to the Social Security Administration immediately because if you miss an appeal deadline you will have to start over.