Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that helps individuals with disabilities and very low incomes pay for necessities, such as food and shelter. SSI is often confused with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The big difference between theses two programs is that SSDI is available to people with disabilities regardless of how much money they earn or have, while SSI places very strict limits on a recipient's income and assets. However, in most states, an SSI beneficiary also qualifies for Medicaid health coverage, which can be an extremely valuable benefit.
Once an SSI applicant has shown that he/she is disabled, they must then prove that they meet the program’s rules for income and assets. As far as assets are concerned, to be eligible for SSI, an applicant can have no more than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 for a couple), a figure that has not changed since 1989. If the applicant can use or liquidate an asset to pay for food or shelter, the asset will probably count as a "resource" against this limit. A resource would include any funds held in the applicant's bank accounts, retirement accounts, or in cash. The $2,000 resource limit does not disappear once a person qualifies for SSI. If an SSI beneficiary ends a month with more than $2,000 in her name, she will lose her benefits in the following month.
However, not all assets count towards the $2,000 resource limit. The major exclusions are:
- The SSI claimant’s home (the principal place of residence), no limit on value
- One automobile, no limit on value
- Household goods (furniture, etc.), no limit on value
- Personal effects (jewelry, art work, etc.), no limit on value as long as the SSI claimant is actually using the items.
- Up to $100,000 in an ABLE account
- Assets in a special needs trust, no limit on amount
The Social Security Administration currently lists 44 resource exclusions in all. It's important to discuss this with your special needs attorney. They can advise you on which assets you own may be excluded from counting towards the $2,000 limit. The attorney can also discuss with you setting up a special needs trust to protect an SSI beneficiary's assets while allowing her to maintain SSI eligibility.
If you do not have a special needs attorney, get in touch with Sivia Law today. We will guide you through this process.