Question: How can someone receive SSDI (Title II) benefits if they have never worked?
If an individual becomes disabled before the age of 22 and one of his/her parents is either deceased or receives disability or retirement benefits, the "Disabled Adult Child" may receive benefits based on their parent's earnings record. SSA has an easy to use FAQ page about this topic: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/qualify.html
Question: When people get large back-pay checks, how long do they have to spend the funds in order to get their resources below that $2,000 level and not impact future payments?
Generally, SSA will not count the retroactive (back-pay) SSI or Social Security benefits for up to nine months after the person receives them. This includes payments received in installments.
When the individual receives his/her award letter it should spell out the exact length of time s/he has to spend down the retroactive payments. If there is any confusion, definitely check with the local SSA office for specifics on the individual's case.
Question: If someone might be eligible for unemployment but is also unable to continue working, should he apply for unemployment or SSI?
If he is eligible for unemployment and the amount is more than the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR)*, then he should take the higher amount (unemployment) as long as he can. The medical approval for SSI will last for 12 months, so if the unemployment only lasts a few months, he can always reapply for SSI (the non-medical application) and SSA will use the medical decision from his last application.
Question: Would someone who has life insurace policies with a cash value totaling $3,700 still be eligible for SSI?
SSA considers any life insurance policy with a face value of $1,500 or higher. The face value is how much insurance you're buying, (e.g., $5,000, $10,000, etc.). The cash value is what you'd get for the policy if you cashed it in. Since this person’s policies are valued at $3,700, they are over the resource limit for an individual ($2,000). In order to fall below the resource limit, they would need to cash in one (or more) of the policies depending on what other resources they have. They would need to use/spend that money to live on before becoming eligible for SSI.
In certain circumstances, someone can get both SSI and SSDI. This happens when someone is approved for SSDI, but their monthly check is lower than the full SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR)*. This could be due to earning low wages throughout the employment history or limited recent work. In this case, the individual will receive SSI to supplement the payment to bring them up to the FBR. Since the Social Security Administration (SSA) discounts the first $20 of earned or unearned income an individual receives when calculating the SSI amount, a concurrent beneficiary will receive $20 above the SSI FBR.