Income Limits for Supplemental Security Income Elegibility

If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), any income or assets that you have available to you will be analyzed to determine if you meet the guidelines for entitlement to SSI benefits.  It is important to note that the rules and guidelines discussed below only apply to individuals who are seeking SSI benefits.  If you have a strong work history, you will likely be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and these rules will not apply to you.  Advice from a lawyer who is familiar with disability and entitlement to benefits is important in determining what type of benefits may be available to you. 

Understanding what will count as income by the Social Security Administration can be difficult. If you are eligible for Supplement Security Income (SSI) because of being blind or disabled, you may still not get the benefit if you are over the asset and income limits.  To help you with understanding how much is too much income you should consult with a Social Security Disability Attorney such as the lawyers at Match and Farnsworth, P.C., who help claimants in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. 

Some types of income are earned income, unearned income, in-kind income, and deemed income.  It is important to understand not just how much income you are receiving, but what type of income it is considered, as there are different rules for each category. 

Earned income includes wages as well as self-employment earnings, and certain royalties, honoraria and workshop payments.  Unearned income is all income that is not earned such as Social Security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, as well as cash from friends or relatives.

In-kind income is any food or shelter that you get for free or less than its fair market value.  Many claimants forget this is counted as income and will be deducted from the Federal SSI benefit award. This type of income can also come from friends and relatives, but it is sometimes not counted when it is provided by nonprofit agencies (see below).

Deemed income is the part of your income from your spouse or parents with whom you live, or your sponsor if you are an alien.  Deemed income is considered countable income and does reduce your Federal SSI benefit award. There are special rules for children who are not eligible due to their parent’s income, that allow them to receive benefits after they turn 18-years-old.  This is a complex area of the law, and you should consider consulting an attorney with experience in Social Security law to make sure you understand the rules and are able to claim your benefits.

There is some income that does not count against SSI eligibility at all.  For example, the first $20 of most income received in a month; the first $65 of earnings and one–half of earnings over $65 received in a month; the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) received; income tax refunds; home energy assistance; assistance based on need funded by a State or local government, or an Indian tribe; small amounts of income received irregularly or infrequently; interest or dividends earned on countable resources or resources excluded under other Federal laws; 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 example, someone pays your telephone or medical bills); income set aside under a Plan to Achieve Self–Support (PASS); earnings up to $1,750 per month to a maximum of $7,060 per year (effective January 2014) for a student under age 22; the cost of impairment–related work expenses for items or services that a disabled person needs in order to work; the cost of work expenses that a blind person incurs in order to work; disaster assistance; the first $2,000 of compensation received per calendar year for participating in certain clinical trials; Refundable Federal and advanced tax credits received on or after January 1, 2010; and certain exclusions on Indian trust fund payments paid to American Indians who are members of a federally recognized tribe.

In order to calculate your income, SSA first subtract any income they do not count - listed above - from your total gross income.  The remaining amount is called “countable income.”  Then, the countable income is subtracted from the SSI Federal benefit rate.  The benefit rate may vary from year to year.  Right now, the Federal benefit rate for SSI is $721.  Here are some examples of how your income might be calculated:

1.    If you receive $320 as a disability benefit, the first $20 would not be counted.  So your countable income would be $300.  The Federal benefit rate, $721, less your countable income $300, would allow a $421 SSI Federal benefit to be paid.  You would be paid $320 in disability and then $421 in SSI Federal benefits for a total of $741.

2.    If you earned $319 from a part time job, the first $20 would not be counted.  Also, the next $65 of earnings would not be counted, then one half of the earnings over $65 would also not be counted, so you would be left with only $117 of countable income. Subtract that from the Federal SSI Benefit rate, $721, and you would have a Federal SSI benefit of $606.  Combined with your earned income - your total income is now $925.

More examples can be found on the Social Security Administration website at

If you are over the income or asset limit, but only temporarily, you may still be eligible for benefits. Please contact us to discuss your particular situation.  At Match and Farnsworth, P.C., we have experienced Social Security Disability attorneys who help clients in the western states of Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.  Also, please see our post SSI Resources, Temporarily Over the Limit.


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