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SSI Benefits Eligibility

In this article:
Income Limits for SSI | Resource Limits for SSI

Income Limits for SSI

SSI benefits are monthly cash payments for the aged (65 years or older), the blind or the disabled who have limited income and resources and who cannot work. The income limit for SSI is based on the federal benefit rate (FBR), which is the maximum federal monthly SSI payment. In 2013, the Federal Benefit Rate was $710 per month for individuals and $1,066 for couples. If you are applying for SSI benefits your monthly countable income must not be higher than the Federal Benefit Rate, although not all of your income is used to decide whether you are over the limit. Given this, some claimants may make more than the FBR and still qualify for limited SSI benefits.

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What type of money is considered "income"? Income can be earned or unearned and includes wages, net earnings from self-employment, support and maintenance from others such as cash, payments from an annuity, worker's compensation payments, old-age, survivors and disability insurance payments; unemployment benefits; payments from an inheritance, payments from a life insurance policy, payments from a wrongful death action; support and alimony payments; and earnings of and additions to the corpus of a non-exempt trust of which the individual is a beneficiary (42 USC § 1382 - Eligibility for benefits).

The SSA does allow some exemptions. For example, the first $20 per month of unearned income and the first $65 of earned income and one-half of monthly-earned income over $65 is exempt. Talk to the SSA if you have questions about your income.

Claimants receiving some income from other sources may have their SSI benefits reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis. If your SSI benefit is reduced to $0 it will render you ineligible for benefits.

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Resource Limits for SSI

Not only will a claimant's income affect their SSI eligibility, resources can also be too high. Resources include assets which can be converted to cash or which are not spent or disposed of in the month received. The SSA does exempt certain assets including a house, a car, certain household goods, and a burial space. Non-exempt resources can be no more than $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples.

Transferring Resources

If your resource levels are too high for SSI, you might consider transferring your property to friends or relatives. Consider, however, if you decide to give away or sell your property or assets for less than the market value this can make you ineligible for SSI benefit for up to 36 months. If you decide to sell property for the market value, this is allowed and will not jeopardize your eligibility for SSI, but if the profit from the sale puts you over the resource limits you will be denied SSI benefits. Talk to the SSA if you have questions about how to lower your resources below the allowable limit.