Am I Financially Eligible for SSI?

Published on: March 5, 2015

Certain types of financial support can lower your SSI benefit amount.Do you know how the SSA establishes financial eligibility for SSI (Supplementary Security Income), in addition to medical eligibility or living arrangement?

The Social Security Administration’s SSI program is based largely on financial need, and reserved for Americans over the age of 65, the disabled and the blind that do not bring in enough monthly income to sustain a livable quality of life. This eligibility determination can be quire complex, given the various sources of income, assistance and support an individual may receive; paid-for living expenses (such as provided food and shelter) can affect your SSI eligibility or benefit amount.

Do you know where your monthly income stands in relation to the Federal benefit rate, the rate the SSA uses to determine benefit amounts? This article serves as an informative reference for all things financial relative to  SSI eligibility.

Your Income and the Federal Benefit Rate

In determining financial need for SSI benefits, the Social Security Administration will use the Federal benefit rate as a reference. For senior, disabled or blind citizens, falling short of this countable monthly income rate is the primary factor in SSI determinations. As of 2015, this rate is established as $733 per month; if you are a senior citizen, blind or disabled individual with contable income of $733 each month, SSI can typically be awarded to increase your income above this rate.

In addition to eligibility based on your countable income and the benefit rate, the SSA will make determinations for your application based on countable assets. If you are a single applicant, your total countable assets must be worth less than $2,000 (the SSA refers to this amount as the resource limit); for couples, this number is increased to $3,000.  This determination is made as of the first moment of the month; if you are over the limit as of the first moment of the month, you are not eligible for SSI for that entire month (even if your assets drop below the limit during the month); conversely, if you are under the asset limitation as of the first moment of the month, you  are resource-eligible for the entire month.

Countable assets for SSI eligibility includes all of the following:

  • Held cash and bank accounts

  • Owned land (excluding the land your home is currently on)

  • Stocks

  • Valuable personal belongings (which could be sold for food or shelter)

  • Some vehicles

  • Some life insurance policies

  • Certain provided resources

In contrast, the following are things that the SSA does not consider as countable assets when making SSI determinations based on financial eligibility:

  • A single vehicle, used either for yourself or a member of your household

  • Your home, as long as it is your principal place of residence
  • Certain life insurance policies with a face value of less than $1,500 per person

  • Resources set aside under a Plan to Achieve Self-Support

  • Burial plots or spaces for your family

  • $1,500 in burial funds for yourself, and a separate $1,500 for your spouse

Additionally, certain income components are not counted by the SSA when determining your countable monthly income. This includes:

  • The first $20 of monthly income you receive

  • The value of any Food Stamnps you may get;

  • Home energy assistance

  • Shelter provided from nonprofit organizations in your community

SSI Adjustments Based on In-Kind Support and Maintenance

Generally, support income in the form of provided food or shelter (excluding that provided by nonprofit organizations) is considered by the SSA to be a form of In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM), which can affect your SSI benefit amount. To determine if your SSI benefits will be affected by ISM, the administration typically uses two rules: the VTR rule (Value of the One-Third Reduction) and PMV rule (Presumed Maximum Value).

If you have been living in another person’s household for at least one month, and receiving both shelter and food during this time at the expense of another within the household, your benefits will be reduced by⅓ according to the VTR rule

The SSA uses the PMV rule in situations in which the VTR rule does not apply, but applicants are still receiving in-kind support and maintenance, such as in the form of shelter or food (not both, which would fall under the VTR rule).

To account for these types of ISM, the SSA will reduce your monthly benefits to ⅓ of the Federal benefit rate;, due to the income exlucsion of 20.00, the effect of the PMV will generally be 20.00 less than the effect of the VTR.. Note: both rules cannot apply in the same month. Additionally, if money is provided to an SSI recipient for the purposes of purchasing goods or services, benefit amounts are adjusted that exact amount to compensate for the added “income” (the provided funds being a form of income considered cash income as opposed to ISM)..

Financial eligibility for SSI can be a complex subject for many beneficiaries or applicants to totally understand. It’s for this reason that hiring a trained disability consultant to handle your application and offer eligibility advice can be crucial to receiving the full benefits you need. If you are undergoing living arrangement changes or fluctuating income, don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert today, and learn exactly how your SSI benefits may be affected.


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