Income and SSI Eligibility for Adults

It is every parent’s fervent hope that their disabled child will be able to live and work independently as an adult. SSI benefits can help make that hope a reality, but eligibility is dependent on a number of elements.

If you have an adult child you think might be eligible for assistance, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 for free to discuss his/her suitability for SSI benefits.

The limited resources test

To be eligible for SSI benefits, a disabled adult must have limited resources. Currently, applicants must have under $2,000 in assets for an individual or $3,000 for a couple in order to qualify for benefits.

The Social Security Administration will consider the following items as resources:

  • Cash;
  • Bank accounts, stocks, bonds;
  • Life insurance;
  • Land;
  • Personal property;
  • Vehicles;
  • Anything that can be exchanged for cash and used for food or shelter;
  • Deemed resources.

The Social Security Administration exempts certain resources, including:

  • The home and land you live on;
  • Household goods;
  • Personal effects;
  • Burial plots;
  • Life insurance policies of $1,500 or less;
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts to pay for educational expenses;
  • Certain trusts, such as Supplemental Needs Trust;
  • Property essential to self-support.

The impact of a disabled adult’s income on SSI benefits

Disabled adults must be deemed of limited income in order to qualify for SSI benefits. An individual must make less than the Federal Benefit Rate of $721 per month or $1,082 for a couple. There are numerous income exceptions that will allow applicants who make far more than the income caps per month to still be eligible for some benefits.

The agency will look at a disabled adult’s:

  • Earned income—job earnings or net earnings from self-employment;
  • Unearned income—monies not received through employment, such as pensions, Social Security benefits, unemployment, and cash gifts;
  • In-Kind income—shelter or food obtained for free or less than its fair market value.
  • Some excluded income includes:
    • $20 from monthly earned or unearned income;
    • $65 of earnings and one-half of earnings over $65 received each month;
    • The value of food stamps;
    • Income tax refunds;
    • Loans that must be repaid;
    • Some student earnings and scholarships, grants, or funds set aside for education.

Calculating your adult child’s SSI benefits

To determine how much your disabled adult child would receive in monthly benefits, you would take their total income then subtract that income that falls under an exception as listed above. You would then subtract the countable income from the Federal benefit rate.

The following example may make the calculation process more clear: Joseph Smith makes $320 a month working part time at a local grocery store. He receives food stamps but no other public assistance.

To determine Joseph’s SSI benefits, you would:

  • Subtract $20 from $320, leaving $300;
  • Subtract $65 from $300, leaving $235;
  • You would then divide this number by two, leaving $117.50;
  • Finally, subtract $117.50 from the Federal Benefit amount of $721, to reach $603.50;
  • Joseph would be eligible for $603.50 per month through the Federal SSI program, and he may receive more assistance depending on his state of residency.

Why living arrangements can be important

For disabled adults, living arrangements can also be a factor in determining how much supplemental income they will receive. The following scenarios may result in a reduction of benefits:

  • The disabled adult lives in another person’s home and pays less than their fair share for food and housing;
  • The disabled adult lives alone but someone else pays expenses like rent, mortgage, food, electricity, and heating fuel;
  • The disabled adult lives in a hospital or nursing home paid for by Medicaid;
  • The disabled adult lives in a medical treatment facility for over 90 days.

Further, in-kind support, such as rent received from another individual living in your home, can result in a reduction of benefits. The Social Security Administration has a system for calculating these reductions, and more information can be found at SSI Living Arrangements.

Appealing the eligibility determination

It is important to note that if your adult disabled child has been denied SSI benefits, you do have the right to an appeal. A disability law attorney can provide you with vital assistance in fighting an unfair determination.

We applaud your efforts in advocating for your disabled child, whether he or she is 3 or 23, and vow to help however we can. For assistance finding an attorney who can guide you through the SSI application process or for questions concerning SSI eligibility, call Stern Law, PLLC today at (800) 462-5772.

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