Important: We updated this article in May 2022 with current SSA policy information. When you apply for disability benefits, you could get called in for a financial interview. This interview only happens when you’re approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but not Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. This interview typically happens about a month after your claim’s approved at your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. If that happens, your monthly payments won’t start until after you complete your SSI interview. The person conducting your SSI interview will ask you series of questions about your lifestyle, assets and income. But really, your interview comes down to one main question: Are you poor enough to qualify for SSI?
If the SSA or DDS office asks you to come in for your SSI interview, we’ll explain everything you need to know. Learn what your SSI interview might be called, who you’ll meet with, and what documents you should bring. Most importantly, we’ll explain what the SSI interview questions are and the best way to answer them below.
Basic Info About Your PERC Appointment or SSI Redetermination Phone Interview
If you’re newly approved for disability benefits, your SSI interview’s probably called a “PERC” (which stands for Pre-effectuation Review Contract). If you were approved for SSI 1-6 years ago, you may get called in for your “SSI Redetermination” appointment. Regardless of what they call it, you’ll have to answer the exact same SSI interview questions every time. The SSA agent will ask you questions about your financial status to confirm you’re actually eligible for SSI.
First, you should know that your PERC is not a mere formality. The SSA uses the information you provide at your SSI interview to confirm that you’re financially eligible for benefits. Second, how you answer these SSI questions can also determine how much money you get every month. So preparing for your SSI interview is an important step in getting paid the most benefits you qualify for each month.
What Documents Should I Bring to My SSI Interview/PERC Appointment?
It’s important to treat your PERC exactly like a job interview. Come prepared and bring any documents you think you’ll need with you. Since this particular interview confirms your income and resources are low enough, bring all documents below that apply:
- A copy of your lease (or recent rent receipts)
- Your car’s title
- A list of your regular monthly expenses and amounts (phone bill, utilities)
- Income tax documents (including bank statements showing direct-deposit refunds, last year filed, etc.)
- Court-ordered child support or alimony records
Keep in mind that coming unprepared will only delay your SSI benefits. The SSA will not approve your next SSI payment without proof your income and assets are within the current limits. Not bringing important documents to your appointment could slow the entire process down. If that happens, you’ll have to schedule a second PERC/SSI interview and show up with all your documents in tow.
What Social Security Interview Questions Will They Ask You?
The SSA will ask several questions about your current finances, living situation and lifestyle during your SSI interview. What they won’t ask about is your disability, doctor, medical treatments or how bad your symptoms are right now. This SSI interview is strictly to determine if your finances qualify you for monthly benefits.
Here are some standard Social Security disability interview questions they may ask you:
- Do you have any other income? (i.e., doing odd jobs for cash you don’t pay taxes on)
- Who do you live with?
- Are you married/living with a long-term romantic partner? (If you’re not married but live like you are, the SSA may adjust your benefit amount.)
- When did you last receive any money from working? (If it’s less than 5 years/60 months ago, you may qualify for SSDI payments instead of SSI.)
They may ask you other questions as well, but most will be similar to the ones we listed above.
SSI Interview Questions That Only Apply for Mental Health Disability Claims
If the SSA approves your disability claim for cognitive or mental health-related issues, they’ll probably ask a few more questions. The SSA just needs to know if you can manage your own finances without help. These questions help them determine whether or not to appoint someone called a “representative payee” to handle your payments. Ask them to appoint someone you trust to receive your monthly benefits as well as help you manage your funds.
Tips for Answering Your SSI Interview Questions
Perhaps more important than the questions they ask is how you choose to answer them. There’s no need to feel nervous about your SSI interview, but always answer questions honestly! This interview doesn’t tell the SSA whether you truly have a disability. They’re assessing your financial situation to ensure that you’re eligible for benefits.
SSI Phone Interview Do’s:
- Provide brief answers to their questions.
- Tell the truth! If you lie and the SSA finds out, it could disqualify you from SSI in the future (or you could owe them money you’ll have to pay back all at once).
- Prepare your answers and bring all the paperwork you’ll need to back them up. Knowing exactly how much you pay for rent, bills and food keeps your SSI interview short and to the point.
- Fully charge your phone before the scheduled call time. The last thing you need is for your battery to die during your SSI interview.
SSI Phone Interview Don’ts:
- Talk too much or complain about how bad you feel. Your interviewer meets with disabled people every day. For this reason, you should only share details about your financial situation.
- Offer too much information about your life. For example: If it sounds like you live with a partner or relative rent-free, it may affect your SSI payment. If a friend occasionally gives you free meals or a ride somewhere, that can also affect your benefit amount.
- Be somewhere loud, public or that has poor phone reception. Someone could overhear private financial data, and you want the agent to hear every word you say clearly.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Still have questions about the best way to prepare for your SSI interview? A lawyer will happily answer all your questions for free by phone. Plus, an attorney filing your paperwork nearly triples your chances of benefit approval. No matter how tricky your situation is, a lawyer can help you without charging anything up front. You can even practice giving your interview answers to help you work out any nerves or concerns before you go. If a lawyer files your claim, you’ll pay nothing unless you win benefits. But if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify for legal assistance with your claim? Click the button below to start your free online disability benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.