The requirements for government programs are often difficult to understand. For example, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based government benefit program. This means that you must show need based on income and resources to receive benefits. SSI and countable income, though, is often difficult to understand.
Who Is Eligible for Supplemental Security Income Benefits
There are two levels of requirements that someone must meet in order to receive SSI.
First, SSI recipients must be:
- Age 65 or older,
- Blind, or
Someone who meets one of these criteria must then also:
- Have a limited income,
- Have limited resources,
- Be a U.S. citizen, a national, or a certain type of alien;
- Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands;
- Agrees to allow the Social Security Administration (SSA) access to their financial records; and
- Meets other requirements set by the SSA.
However, an SSI recipient cannot:
- Be absent from the country for a full calendar month or for 30 consecutive days or more; or
- Be confined to an institution paid for by the government.
We will focus on the “have a limited income” step.
What Counts as Countable Income?
If you’ve never filed for SSI benefits before, you may assume that all income counts toward the limited income restriction. You might also be surprised to learn some of the things that the SSA does consider to be ‘income.’
For example, the following items are countable income according to the SSA:
- Money you earn from work;
- Money received from other sources, including:
- Social Security benefits,
- Workers’ compensation,
- Veterans benefits,
- Friends, or
- Free food and shelter.
SSA guidelines further define countable income in four categories:
Earned Income, including wages from your job or self-employment, certain royalties, and sheltered workshop payments.
Unearned Income includes benefit payments, pensions, interest income, dividends, and cash from friends and family members.
In-Kind Income includes food or shelter that is given to you free or for less than market value.
Deemed Income includes part of the income from other people, like your spouse, parents, or sponsor.
Confused yet? Some things you might consider income are not countable income for the purposes of SSI eligibility:
- The first portion of certain monthly income;
- Food stamps,
- Income tax refunds,
- Small amounts of income you receive on an infrequent or irregular basis;
- Loans that you have to repay;
- Money given to you for education, including grants and scholarships;
- Money that someone uses to pay for expenses other than food or shelter; and
- Disaster assistance.
This list is by no means complete. In fact, some requirements are based on whether you are disabled, part of a Native American tribe, or a student.
Understanding SSI and Countable Income Is Crucial
We can help you navigate the often-confusing world of disability benefits, including SSI. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Taller have more than 50 years’ experience in the legal field, much of it involving Social Security disability cases.
For a free consultation, call us at 714-385-8100. Though our office is located in Anaheim, we represent clients throughout Southern California.