Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Limits and Eligibility

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If you’ve ever applied for federal student aid or collected unemployment benefits, you’re probably familiar with need-based financial aid programs. There are a lot of these programs in place, which is great for those in need but can make it challenging to determine which benefits you may be eligible for.

One such benefit is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program — a program that benefits disabled adults and children with limited assets and income. If you think you or a loved one may qualify for this assistance, first check your verified income to see if you meet the SSI income limit, and then read on to learn more about other qualifying factors.

What Is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is a federal program, managed by the Social Security Administration, that pays monthly cash benefits to disabled, blind, or elderly people (and even some children) with limited means. Although managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSI program is not connected with retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance — another type of federal aid for people with disabilities.

Who Qualifies for SSI?

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits you must be an adult with a disability, a child with a disability, OR an adult over 65 AND have limited income and resources. There are also several other qualifying factors like citizenship and residency as defined by the Social Security Administration.

What Is the Income Limit for SSI?

According to the Social Security Administration, the SSI income limit for 2018 is $750 for an individual and $1,125 for couples. In order to qualify for SSI assistance, you must have a total monthly income that is less than those amounts. However, the SSA uses specific countable income to quantify those amounts, so even if you make more than that, you may still be eligible. If you’re married or live with a long-term partner, a portion of your spouse’s income will be “deemed” yours and count towards the SSI income limit.

What Counts As Income Toward the SSI Income Limit?

Generally, any earned income you receive as wages or money from working, as well as any unearned income you receive from other sources like unemployment, Social Security retirement, and even free food, shelter, or gifts can count towards the SSI income limit. However, the Social Security Administration excludes some forms of income, including the following, from the calculations.

  • the first $65 of earned income (money derived from paid work) per month plus one-half of the remainder
  • the first $20 of unearned income per month such as Social Security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, dividends and cash from friends and relatives
  • the value of food stamps received
  • income tax refunds
  • home energy assistance
  • small amounts of income received irregularly or infrequently
  • grants, scholarships, fellowships or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses
  • food or shelter based on need provided by nonprofit agencies
  • loans to you (cash or in–kind) that you have to repay
  • money someone else spends to pay your expenses for items other than food or shelter

For a full list of exclusions, refer to the Social Security Administration.

How Your SSI Federal Benefit Is Calculated

As with many other benefit programs, the amount you receive from the SSI program every month depends on how much countable income you already make. These income limits may also disqualify you altogether if you make more than the federal benefit rate. If you want to know how much you could receive monthly from the SSI program, you can calculate the amount in two simple steps:

1. First, calculate your countable income. To do this, subtract any income that is not counted from your gross monthly income.

2. Next, subtract that number from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) to get your SSI federal benefit.

Although it may seem complicated to determine whether you’re eligible for SSI benefits, don’t let that dissuade you from looking into the program because it can be immensely helpful for those who need it. Additionally, all states besides Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia currently supplement SSI income, meaning the earning potential can extend beyond the $750 set by the federal government. Whether you qualify or not, it’s important to periodically assess your finances to stay up to date with your financial health and prepare you for the future.


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