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What are "resources" and "income"? How do they affect Supplemental Security Income?

WHAT ARE “RESOURCES” AND INCOME AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME?

Many of my clients are confused about Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and how it differs from Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”). SSI is a means based program intended to assist disabled people who have not earned sufficient work credits to be eligible for SSDI – perhaps they have never worked or have not worked for many years. The SSI program is also intended to assist disabled people who little or no income and few resources. This is important to understand. If you are medically disabled – your income and resources will determine if are still eligible for benefits and will affect how much you will receive.

So, what is “income “ and what is a “resource”? Income is anything that you receive in cash or an in-kind benefit that can be used to meet your need for food and shelter. The income is counted in the month that you receives the income. A resource is cash or any other personal property that you (or your spouse) own, or have the right/authority to convert to cash.

Why are your resources important? To be eligible for SSI benefits, even if you are found to be medically disabled, you cannot have “countable resources” that exceed more than $2,000.00 at the beginning of a particular month. If your countable resources exceed $2,000.00 as of the first of the month, you are not eligible for benefits – the SSI monthly payment and associated Medicaid coverage – for that month. If your countable resources exceed $2,000.00 for more than twelve (12) consecutive months, the SSI benefits will be terminated and you will need to file a new SSI application.

Are only your resources counted? No. If you are medically disabled and eligible for SSI benefits, but you are married and your spouse is not eligible for benefits, the Social Security Administration will assume that you are sharing your spouse’s resources. This is the same for children. If a disabled child, under the age of eighteen (18) lives with his/her parents, a portion of the parents’ resources may be used to determine the child’s eligibility.

Is everything counted as a resource? No. Not everything that you own will be counted by the Social Security Administration as a resource. Some of the most common resources that are not counted as a resource include:
         

          (1) Your home. Your primary residence is excluded from consideration as a resource – no matter how much it is worth! There may be some restrictions if the home is given to you or if the land that the home is on is used to generate income. Be sure to seek legal assistance with specific questions. You can submit an inquiry here.
         

          (2) An automobile. This will include a car, truck, motorcycle, etc. This applies to only one automobile. If you have more than one automobile, the automobile with the lesser value will count against your resource limit.
         

          (3) Life Insurance Policies – if the policy does not have cash surrender value. If your life insurance policy has a cash surrender value – it may be considered a resource for SSI purposes. However, if you have a term life insurance policy with no cash surrender value, it is not a resource for SSI purposes.
         

          (4) Household goods. These are usually described as personal items found in your home – such as furniture, appliances, electronic equipment, pots, pans, dishes, etc.
         

          (5) Wedding rings and engagement rings. The value of the ring(s) is not considered.
         

          (6) Medical devices. Necessary medical devices, like wheelchairs and scooters are excluded.

Other items, such as burial funds and retirement funds are complicated and may be based on your ability to access funds from the specific account. Because these questions are usually very specific to the type of resource being discussed, it is important that you seek specific legal advice concerning these potential resources. Please submit an inquiry here for additional information.

Can I sell property and still receive SSI? Yes – this is called a “conditional benefit” but you may need to pay-back some or all of the money that you receive from the sale. You may be able to sell property or other resources that are putting you over the allowable resource limit. While you may be permitted to receive SSI benefits while trying to sell your assets, when you make the sale, you must pay back the SSI benefits you received during the sales period.

What if I sell my property for less than it is worth? You should not do this. It is illegal for you, your spouse or a co-owner of the property to sell it or give it away for less than it is worth so that you can receive SSI benefits. In fact, you may be ineligible for SSI benefits for up to 36 months.

So, now that you know more about what the Social Security Administration considers “income” or “resources” and how the income and resources may affect your eligibility, how about an example?

At Norfleet and Lafferty, LLC, we work hard each day to help our clients navigate through the disability application process and the appeals process. If you have questions, it is easier to discuss your questions with an attorney  at the beginning of your case – before it is too late. Call our firm today at (717) 737-7574 for a free case evaluation or you can complete a request for a free case evaluation here.

Andy Norfleet
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Andy focuses on Social Security and Disability Law

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