About Supplemental Security Income

Manchester SSI attorney GavelThe SSI program provides payments to an adult or child who is disabled and has limited income and resources. If your income and resources are too high, you will be turned down for benefits no matter how severe your medical disorders. You will be turned down even if you have not paid enough in Social Security taxes to qualify for SSDI. The SSI limits on income and resources is one of the most complicated areas handled by the SSA. Although important points are covered here, only SSA representatives can accurately determine your income and resources for purposes of qualifying for SSI.

A. Income Limits

To qualify for SSI, your monthly income (as counted by the SSA) cannot exceed something called the federal benefit rate (FBR). The FBR for a married couple is approximately 33% more than for an individual. If only one member of a couple is eligible, both spouses’ income is still considered. If a child under age 18 is living with parents, then the parents’ income is considered. The FBR is set by law. It increases annually as dictated by cost-of-living adjustments.

The federal benefit rate sets both the SSI income limit and the maximum federal SSI payment. The FBR payment is supplemented in every state except Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. In all other states, the allowed income level and the SSI payments are higher than the federal maximums. In California, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Nevada, the state supplements are higher for blind recipients than for others. Also, the amount of the state supplement depends on whether you are single or married and on your particular living arrangements. Although the amount of the state supplement varies widely, it can be as much as several hundred dollars.

The SSA does not count the following income and benefits when calculating your income level:

  • $20 per month of most income, except wages
  • $65 per month of wages and one-half of wages over $65
  • food stamps, and home energy or housing assistance.

B. Resource Limits

To qualify for SSI, your resources must also not exceed certain limits. A “resource” is cash or another asset that can be converted to cash and used for support. If you or your spouse have the right, authority, or power to sell property and keep the proceeds, it will be considered a resource. Resources are categorized as either liquid or non-liquid. Liquid resources include cash and other assets that could be converted to cash within 20 working days. The most common types of liquid resources are savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, promissory notes, and certain types of life insurance. Non-liquid resources cannot be converted to cash within 20 working days. They include both real property (land) and personal property. The SSA may consider some resources to be both liquid and non-liquid (such as an automobile or life insurance policy).

It’s possible that you don’t qualify for SSI benefits, but might be entitled to conditional payments ­ in essence, a loan. This happens when you r resources are above the resource limits, but include non-liquid assets that may take months for you to convert into cash in order to use as support. In that situation, the SSA will make conditional payments until you sell your assets and can support yourself. You will not receive SSI and at the end of the conditional payment period you must refund to the SSA the amount you received.

The resource limits are set by law. They are not subject to regular cost of-living adjustments, but they have increased slowly over the years. For 2010, you will not be eligible for SSI disability payments if your assets exceed:

    • $2,000 for a single person, or
    • $3,000 for a married couple (even if only one member is eligible for SSI). When counting up your assets, the SSA must exclude certain assets, including the following:
    • your home (including adjacent land and related buildings), regardless of value. The home must be owned by you or your spouse and used as your principal residence.
    • restricted allotted Indian lands
    • household goods and personal effects up to $2,000 in value
    • one wedding ring and one engagement ring of any value
    • necessary health aids, such as a wheelchair or prosthetic device
    • one automobile, regardless of value, if used to provide necessary transportation; if not used for that purpose, t hen one automobile up to $4,500 in value
    • grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts used to pay tuition, fees, or other necessary educational expenses at a n educational institution (including vocational or technical institution) for nine months beginning the month after the month the educational assistance was received
    • non-business property needed for support, up to a reasonable value
    • resources of a blind or disabled person needed to fulfill an approved plan for achieving self-support (called a PASS plan).
    • life insurance with a face value of $1,500 or less
    • burial plots and certain burial funds up to $1,500
    • disaster relief, and
    • housing assistance paid under the U.S. Housing Act, the National Housing Act, or the Housing and Urban Development Act.

Exceptions to the residence requirements can involve complex legal issues, and you should consider consulting a Manchester SSI attorney if you think an exception might apply to you.

C. Citizenship and Residency Requirements

SSI disability payments are usually available only to U.S. citizens. There are several exceptions, however, under which noncitizens might be eligible, including the following:

  • During the first seven years after you were admitted, you are either legally residing in the United States as a refugee, have been granted asylum, satisfy certain conditions of withheld deportation, have been granted stat us as a Cuban or Haitian entrant, or, under some conditions, entered as an Amerasian immigrant.
  • You legally entered the United States for permanent residence and have worked 40 qualifying quarters under the Social Security Act. In some situations, you may be able to count the qualifying quarters of a parent (for the time you were under age 18) or a current spouse or deceased spouse.
  • You were honorably discharged from the U.S. military, you are on active duty in the U.S. military, or you are the spouse of a veteran or person on active duty, the unmarried dependent child of a veteran or person on active duty, or the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran or person on active duty and you have not remarried.
  • You were lawfully residing in the United States and receiving SSI benefits on August 22, 1996.
  • You were lawfully residing in the United States on August 22, 1996, and you are blind or otherwise became disabled at any time.
  • You are lawfully residing in the United States and are an American Indian born in Canada.
  • You have been battered or subjected to cruelty in the US by a family member.

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