Financial assistance

What counts as income for SSI?


Income is a key factor in determining eligibility for Supplementary Security Income (SSI), a monthly benefit for people who are disabled, blind or 65 and over and in financial difficulty. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which manages the program, strictly regulates the type and amount of income a person can receive while still being eligible for SSI.

There are also income limits that affect eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the other disability benefit administered by the SSA. But for SSDI, only labor income matters.

For SSI, Social Security defines income much more broadly, as “any item that an individual receives in cash or in kind that can be used to meet their food or shelter needs”. This includes income from work, but also money or services you might receive from other sources, such as government programs or family members.

In 2021, the maximum federal SSI benefit is $ 794 per month for an individual and $ 1,191 per month for a married couple if both spouses are eligible. (Federal amounts are adjusted annually for inflation; most states add additional payments for certain beneficiaries.) What the SSA calls “accounting income” is deducted from those payments, and if your accounting income exceeds the benefit ceiling, you can not get the SSI.

However, some income is not counted and does not affect SSI eligibility or payments. This includes the first $ 20 you receive per month from most sources and a larger portion of what you earn from labor, as well as other exceptions noted below.

There are four categories of accounting income: earned income, unearned income, in-kind income, and deemed income.

Earned income

Earned income primarily means wages from a job and net income from self-employment. It may also include royalties paid to the owner of copyrighted material or natural resources, and fees such as an allowance or gift for rendering a service (for example, giving a speech).

However, a significant portion of earned income is not recorded. Social Security exempts the first $ 65 you earn from work each month and half of the top income. As a result, you can earn up to $ 1,673 per month working in 2021 and still potentially eligible for SSI.

Unearned income

This includes government benefits, such as social security payments, unemployment insurance, and veterans benefits, as well as pensions, interest income, dividends, workers’ compensation, and family cash. and friends. It can also be alimony or child support.

Income from these sources – other than the first $ 20 per month in most cases – is deducted from your SSI benefit. If you only have income from these non-professional sources, you can receive up to $ 814 per month while still being eligible for SSI.

Tax refunds are not considered unearned income, and there are exceptions for certain forms of government and private financial assistance, including:


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