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Can I get benefits if I have a checking account?

How much money can I have and get disability benefits?

A common question on our forum is, “Can I get benefits if I have a checking account?” What this question is really asking is can I have additional financial resources and apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or will my extra cash or resources make me ineligible for disability benefits?

SSDI and Resources

The first issue to consider prior to answering this question is whether you are applying for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. SSDI is paid to workers who are no longer able to work due to a serious health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. Claimants will only qualify if they have worked and paid employment taxes and have earned sufficient work credits.

For the SSDI applicant, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not consider the applicants resources or unearned income. This means that you can receive unearned income including alimony, gifts, life insurance proceeds, private pension and annuity payments without eliminating or reducing your SSDI benefit. Cash in your checking account will also not affect your eligibility for SSDI.

SSI and Resources

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for the aged (65 years and older), blind and disabled who have not worked or paid employment taxes but who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months. SSI is only for those applicants who have VERY limited income and resources.

Because the applicant did not pay into the SSA system they are basically getting “free” money. Additionally, because the program requires a claimant to have limited resources the SSA will evaluate the following:

  1. Cash

  2. Bank accounts, stocks, U.S. Savings Bonds

  3. Land

  4. Life insurance

  5. Vehicles

  6. Any resource which could be converted to cash or shelter

Keep in mind, if an applicant is living spouse, parent, parent’s spouse, sponsor of an alien or sponsor’s spouse as belonging to the person who files for SSI the resources of the “supporting person” can be “deemed” or counted as resources and can eliminate the right of the applicant to get benefits.

Additionally, the SSA will exempt certain resources in their calculations. For example, the SSA allows you to own a home and the land it is on, household goods, personal effects, burial spaces, burial funds valued at $1,500 or less, life insurance valued at $1,500 or less, one vehicle, retroactive SSI or SSDI benefits (for up to 9 months) and grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts set aside to pay educational expenses for 9 months after receipt.

SSDI, SSI and Income Limits

Both SSDI and SSI have income limitations (which is a separate consideration from resources). If you are performing “substantial gainful activity,” which is making $1,010 (non-blind) and $1,690 (statutorily blind individuals) you will be automatically denied both SSDI and SSI benefits, regardless of the severity of your mental or physical health condition. Additionally, work can be considered “substantial” even if it is part-time and it does not generate pay or profit (i.e. volunteer work, illegal activity, self-employment or attending school).
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