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SSA Disability - Can I get a cash gift?

If you are receiving SSDI or SSI benefits at some point you may have to make sufficient budget cuts and well-meaning friends or relatives may offer to pay you a cash gift or perhaps leave you an inheritance. Prior to accepting a cash gift, however, it is important to determine how thecash gift may affect your disability payments.

The first consideration is whether the claimant is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In this blog we will discuss the different types of benefits and how unearned income will affect each one.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and a cash gift

Social Security Disability Insurance is awarded to claimants who are disabled with a severe health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and which does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity. Workers must have also worked and paid enough employment taxes to be considered “insured” by the SSA.

Workers who are earning too much “earned income” will not qualify for SSDI, but according to the SSA, although there are limits on earnings, there are no limits on unearned income. This means that if you are getting SSDI you are still allowed to get investments, pensions (with the exception of a public disability benefit such as workers' compensation) and other financial assets without affecting your SSDI monthly payment.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and a cash gift

Workers who have not worked or who have worked but who have not paid enough in employment taxes will not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The disabled, blind, or aged may, however, be able to apply for SSI benefits if they can prove that they have a are not able to work for at least 12 continuous months. SSI is also only paid to claimants who have VERY limited income and resources.

Now, because SSI is only offered to claimants who have limited income and resources the SSA will monitor all additional income that SSI claimants receive, including unearned income. According to the SSA the following is considered unearned income:

  1. The value of food or shelter that someone gives you, or the amount of money they give you to help pay for them;

  2. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits;

  3. Railroad retirement and railroad unemployment benefits;

  4. Annuities, pensions from any government or private source, workers' compensation, unemployment insurance benefits, black lung benefits and Social Security benefits;

  5. Prizes, lottery winnings, settlements and awards, including court-ordered awards;

  6. Proceeds of life insurance policies;

  7. Gifts and contributions;Support and alimony payments;

  8. Inheritances in cash or property;

  9. Rental income; and

  10. Strike pay and other benefits from unions.

How is SSI affected by extra money?

So, if you are getting SSI the SSA will consider any type of additional income that you receive p when calculating your SSI payments. Extra income can include any of the charity, earned income and unearned income listed above. If your unearned income is too high your SSI payment can be reduced, eliminated or worse, you could end up owing the SSA over payments.

There may be legal ways, such as creating a specific trust, to accept certain types of payments. If you decide to create a trust you can talk to a disability lawyer to discuss how to create the trust and add money without jeopardizing your SSI benefits.
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