How Does My Income/Assets/Resources Affect Eligibility for SSI?

How Does My Income/Assets/Resources Affect Eligibility for SSI?

The federal government has two safety net programs for people with disabilities. The first one is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), only available to disabled individuals who have the required work credits. The second one, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), is a needs-based program that provides income for people with disabilities or blindness or for those over retirement age who meet the income requirements. In order to qualify, a person must demonstrate financial need.

The requirements for SSI are stringent and people often ask how their income, assets, and resources affect their eligibility for SSI. There is also no one-size-fits-all answer but there are also many sources which do not count towards your income.

Understanding Income

For SSI, “income” includes all sources of incoming money – or benefits in lieu of money. Wages, pensions, and Social Security benefits are all considered income. Benefits like food or housing assistance are also income. In fact, a person does not have to earn the income themselves for it to count—some household income from other family members also qualifies. According to the SSA, income includes any item that can be used—directly or indirectly—for food or shelter.

Earned income is the most basic type  and includes wages from employers and other sources, profits from self-employment, honoraria, royalties, and sheltered workshop payments.

Unearned income is not directly derived from work. That label can be tricky since it includes things like pensions and Social Security benefits, which are related to a person’s work history. Other types of unearned income include State disability payments, interest income, dividends, unemployment benefits, and cash gifts.

In-Kind and Deemed Income

In-kind income is anything a person gets for free or for less than market value, such as benefits through official programs, like housing assistance or food assistance. It also includes in-kind payments that are not through an official program, like housing benefits that are part of a job.

Deemed income is one of the trickier parts of qualifying for SSI. It includes income from people who share the same home as the applicant or from a noncitizen’s sponsor.

Exempted Income

Not all income counts towards the SSI income limits. Exemptions include:

  • Food stamps
  • Income tax returns
  • Needs-based assistance provided by state, local, or native government agencies
  • Home energy assistance
  • School-related expenses
  • Interest or dividends on countable resources, loans
  • Money provided by others for things other than food or shelter
  • Income set aside under the plan to achieve self-support program
  • The cost of work-expenses for items allowing disabled or blind people to work
  • Disaster assistance
  • Up to $2,000 in compensation from clinical trials
  • Refundable and advanced tax credits
  • Some Indian trust fund payments

The SSA subtracts any excluded income from total gross income to get an applicant’s countable income. Then, they subtract countable income from the SSI Federal benefit rate. The impact of your income on SSI eligibility is complex, so no applicant with a financial need should automatically assume they will not qualify.

How Assets and Resources Impact SSI Eligibility

Resources—also known as assets—include everything a person owns. A person’s total resources must be $2,000 or less to qualify for SSI, and a couple can only have $3,000 in combined assets. However, if someone is in the process of trying to sell property over that value, they may still qualify for SSI.

The SSA only uses countable resources to determine SSI eligibility. Countable resources include most assets, but there are specific exceptions, including:

  • The home you live in and the land it is on
  • A single vehicle
  • Household goods and other personal property
  • Life insurance policies up to $1,500 in combined face value
  • Up to $1,500 each in burial expenses for you and your spouse
  • Burial plots or spaces
  • Property used in trade or on the job
  • Money set aside under a plan to achieve self support
  • Up to $100,000 in funds in an achieving a better life experience

Learn More About How Your Income, Assets, and Resources Affect Eligibility for SSI

Applicants must demonstrate financial need, in addition to a disability, to qualify for SSI. The SSA will look at income and assets to determine whether an applicant demonstrates financial need. Many applicants assume that they cannot own a home or have other property to qualify—however, there are many property exemptions. Schedule a free consultation with one of our SSI attorneys to learn whether your income and assets prevents you from being eligible for these benefits.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law