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Assistance Standard (MSA)

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The MSA assistance standard is the minimum amount of money the state of Minnesota believes a person needs in order to pay for his or her basic needs. This amount is used along with the money you get from SSI and other sources to figure out the amount of your MSA benefit. The amount depends on whether you are an individual or an eligible couple; and on whether you are living alone or living with others. The MSA assistance standard is adjusted each year for the cost of living.

  • For a person living alone, the MSA assistance standard is $832/month for 2019.
  • If you’re an individual living with others, the MSA assistance standard is $606.66. Notice that this is less than the SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) for individuals ($771). So if you’re in this situation and you’re getting full SSI ($771), you won’t get any MSA unless you have some special needs expenses.
  • The MSA assistance standard for an eligible couple living alone is $1,248.
  • For an eligible couple living with others, the MSA assistance standard is $835.34. Again, this is less than FBR for a couple ($1,157), so there would be no MSA grant unless special needs expenses were in the picture.
  • People living in certain residential facilities get $84/month for personal needs and clothing.

Countable Income

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The amount of income that Social Security or the state counts when figuring out if you qualify for benefits and, if so, the level of benefits you should get. Not all of your income counts.

Example: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) counts most unearned income, but a bit less than half of earned income. So, if you have $500 in unearned income and $500 in earned income, your countable income for SSI would be just $697.50, even though your total income would be $1,000. Other programs, such as disability-based Medical Assistance and Medicare Savings Programs often use calculations similar to SSI's.

Earned Income (EI)

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Salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and other amounts you receive as pay for physical or mental work you perform. This can include things you get in exchange for work instead of wages, such as food, shelter, or other items. Funds received from any other source are not included. (Contrast: unearned income.)

Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG)

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Monthly and annual income amounts used to determine financial eligibility for state and federal benefit programs.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) in the Federal Register. The current FPG for one person is $12,140 per year; for two people, it's $16,460. Add $4,320 for each additional person.

Note: Different state and federal programs adopt the new Federal Poverty Guidelines on different dates each year.

Living Alone (MSA)

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Living alone is one of the assistance standards that helps determine how much you get in Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) benefits. For a person living alone, the MSA assistance standard is $832/month for 2019. The MSA assistance standard for an eligible couple living alone is $1,248.

Important: A person does not have to actually be living alone in order to be considered to be living alone by the MSA program. Here are some examples of situations where a person can be sharing a place with other people, but still have the MSA living alone assistance standard:

  • A person who shares an apartment, but has her own room, buys her own food and prepares it herself, while having her own rental agreement or lease. Even though she is sharing the apartment, she still is considered to be living alone, because she takes care of herself and her own expenses.
  • A person who gets help from an MA-Waiver program
  • A person who meets county plan requirements for the Housing Support program
  • A person who qualifies for MSA Housing Assistance

People in any one of the situations above may be considered to be living alone by the MSA program.

Medical Assistance (MA)

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A state-run health care program that pays medical expenses for people who are disabled, young, elderly, poor, or pregnant. If you meet program requirements, MA will help pay for a variety of medical services including visits to the doctor, hospital stays, medical equipment, home care services, and prescription drugs. To apply for MA, visit your county human services agency.

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) Housing Assistance

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A special needs expense that can be added to your MSA assistance standard to help you move from an institution into the community. Your total shelter costs (rent, utilities, and initial security deposit) must be more than 40% of your household gross income to qualify for Housing Assistance. In 2019, the MSA Housing Assistance amount is $192.

Representative Payee

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A person who gets and manages benefits on someone else's behalf. Social Security does an investigation before making a relative, friend, or other person the representative payee of a beneficiary who needs help managing their benefits. For children under 18, a parent or guardian is usually the representative payee.

Resource Limit

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The maximum amount of resources you're allowed to own while maintaining eligibility for a particular disability benefits program. Most benefits programs do not count everything you own, including the home you live in and one car you own. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the first $100,000 in an ABLE account is not counted as resources. For Medical Assistance, SNAP (formerly Food Support/Food Stamps), and some other programs, none of the money in an ABLE account is counted.

Also called an "asset limit."

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

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A Social Security Administration program that gives money each month to people who have a disability that meets Social Security disability rules and who, in the past, worked and paid FICA taxes for enough time to qualify. SSDI has no income limits and no resource limits. The amount you get in SSDI benefits depends on your Social Security earnings record. After getting SSDI benefits for two years, you automatically qualify for Medicare health coverage.

SSDI also offers benefits to family members, including children and widows, when a primary wage earner in the family becomes disabled or dies. Additionally, adults whose disabilities began before they turned 22 may be able to get Disabled Adult Child (DAC).

Special Needs Expenses (MSA)

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Extra costs you have that Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) will help you pay for. Special needs expenses can be things you need just once or they can be ongoing expenses you have each month.

Special needs expenses must be approved by your county human services agency before MSA will pay for them. Examples of things that might be approved include:

  • Medically prescribed diets (foods you must have for health reasons)
  • Fees you pay to a representative payee who collects your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments
  • Needed home repairs, furniture, or appliances
  • Emergency basic needs expenses like food and shelter.

You must fully document all special needs expenses with receipts or other proof.

Special Needs Payment

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A supplemental payment added to your MSA benefit for one-time or regular monthly special needs expenses.

State Medical Review Team (SMRT)

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A group within Minnesota's Department of Human Services (DHS) that decides whether or not the state considers you blind or disabled for state benefits programs. SMRT uses a standard process to decide whether people who are not already considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) meet the state's disability standards.

If you already get benefits from Social Security based on your disability, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your disability automatically meets the state’s standards and you do not need to be reviewed again by SMRT.

Contact your local county human services agency to request a SMRT review.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

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A county-run, federal program that helps people with low incomes buy food. Formerly called Food Support (in MN) or Food Stamps.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

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A Social Security Administration program that gives cash benefits to people with disabilities who have limited income and resources. The amount you get in SSI benefits is based on your financial need and your living situation. The maximum monthly SSI benefit is $771 for individuals and $1,157 for eligible couples.

Unearned Income (UI)

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Funds received from sources for which no paid work activity is performed. Disability benefits such as SSDI, SSI, short-term disability insurance, and long-term disability insurance; VA benefits; Workers' Compensation; income from a trust or investment; spousal support; dividends, profits, or funds received from any source other than work are all usually considered unearned income.