If you apply for disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, one of the main forms you'll need to fill out is the Application for Supplemental Security Income, Form SSA-8000-BK. (If you're applying for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), you'll fill out Form SSA-16-BK instead; see our article filing Form SSA-16-BK.)
The SSA-8000-BK is a long form with 65 questions. Most of the questions are directed at uncovering your income and assets so that Social Security can determine whether you qualify financially for SSI (see our article on financial eligibility for SSI). Social Security will use other forms to determine if you meet the medical disability standard, particularly Form 3368, the Adult Disability Report. Here's a sample of a filled-out SSI application and here's a description of the questions asked on the form:
Questions 5-14 are directed at finding out facts about your citizenship status, to determine whether you are a U.S. citizen or if you meet the criteria for non-citizens to receive SSI.
In Part 2, Questions 17-36, Social Security is seeking information about your living situation: where you live, who lives with you, what kind of income your household members have, and who pays for living expenses. Some of the questions in this section will tell Social Security how much of your spouse's income to count in your eligibility calculation and whether you're receiving free room or board. (For the rules, see our articles on "deeming" marital income and counting "in-kind" income.)
In Part 3, Questions 37-46, Social Security asks questions about your resources. These questions allow Social Security to see if you are "resource-eligible" for SSI -- the resource limit for SSI is $2,000 for an unmarried applicant and $3,000 for a married applicant. Social Security asks about your cash, bank accounts, stocks, vehicles, real estate, life insurance, and valuable household goods.
Question 44 is "Have you or your spouse sold, . . . or given away money or other property . . . since the first moment of the filing date month or within the 36 months prior to the filing date month?" The question is Social Security's attempt to find whether you have transferred any assets for less than their fair market value in an attempt to make yourself eligible for SSI. Transferring resources for less than they are worth can make you ineligible for SSI for up to 36 months.
Part 4, questions 47-54, helps Social Security determine whether your meet the income guidelines for SSI. Question 47 lists over 20 different kinds of income and asks if you or your spouse receive or expect to receive any of them. Questions 50 and 51 ask whether you or your spouse have or expect to have any employment or self-employment income.
Part 5 of the application, questions 55-57, ask about your eligibility for other benefits, including food stamps. You can apply for food stamps directly on Form SSA-8000-BK by checking "yes" to question.
You should fill out Question 58 if you are completing the form for someone other than yourself. Social Security asks whether you want to be appointed as the applicant's representative payee and then asks questions about you to determine if you qualify to be a representative payee.
You can get free help filling out the SSI application from the Social Security Administration. Call 800-772-1213 to arrange an in-person interview or telephone call. A field rep can also fill out the form you if you wish. You might be able to hire a "nonlawyer disability representative" to help you fill out the form, but most disability attorneys won't take your case until you have been denied disability benefits and need to request an appeal hearing.