Twice in the past few weeks, clients have called after Social Security sent them requests for their old payroll records. Naturally, this development caused these clients some confusion. These are clients whom Social Security has approved for benefits. So why does Social Security care about what money they earned while they were working?
SSI And Past Earnings
The short answer is that Social Security is considering whether these people qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). As noted elsewhere in this blog, SSI has additional requirements beyond being disabled. To get SSI benefits, an applicant must show that she has few enough resources to qualify. These resources include most things of value, particularly income.
Dollar For Dollar Reduction In Benefits
The reason that Social Security might ask you about old pay stubs is that they are examining periods of time in your past to see if you qualified for SSI during those times. Most disability awards include some back benefits covering years gone by. If you had earnings during those past years, Social Security will factor that into what SSI back benefits you are due. Note that this is also true of any earnings by your spouse during that time. Social Security will generally reduce your SSI benefits dollar for dollar by any income you had. Given that SSI monthly benefits are currently $735 per month, it would not take much in wages to reduce that amount to zero.
Tax Returns May Be An Acceptable Substitute
One good lesson to take from this is to be sure to keep your old payroll records if you are applying for Social Security disability. If
you don't have actual pay stubs, you might be able to get by with tax returns or other evidence of what your earnings were. Pay stubs are best, however, if your income varied month to month. The more information you can provide, the more accurately Social Security can calculate your back benefits.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments about this or anything else.