Individuals entitled to Supplemental Security Income benefits qualify because of disability, blindness or age. Couples may qualify if both meet the eligibility requirements. Two members in the same household may also qualify. In addition to disability, blindness or age, SSI recipients must have low income and low resources, continuing from month to month.
Earned income must be below $1,433 for one person or $2,107 for a couple. Two individuals who are not a couple are independently eligible at $1,433 or less. Four kinds of income count for SSI. Earned income is money you make; unearned income is veteran's benefits, Social Security, interest or stock dividends. In-kind income comes from trading services or goods for food or shelter. Deemed income is a contribution by someone close to you that benefits you. SSI does not count the first $20 of unearned income and $65 of earned income. As a couple, you receive only one deduction. As individuals, you each receive a deduction.
Resources include assets you own such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds, cash and life insurance in excess of $1,500. You may own a house and lot, household furnishings, a car, minimum life insurance and a burial plot. Your countable resources cannot exceed $2,000 individually or $3,000 as a couple. Couples with more than one automobile can usually exclude only one. You may each have a wedding and engagement ring exclusion. You may each set aside up to $1,500 for burial. Some resources count as a couple; others are individual.
If you pay less than your fair share in food and living expenses while living with someone else, you may see a reduction in SSI benefits. Deemed income attributes part of the income of a spouse or person living in the same household who does not qualify for SSI as income to the SSI recipient. If someone lives with you who has income, part of that income may be attributed to you, lowering the amount you can earn without penalty.
You must notify Social Security if you get married, separated or divorced; if you or your spouse has a change in income or resources, or if anyone moves in or out of your household or dies. The Social Security Administration follows state law and considers an unmarried couple who holds themselves out to the community as husband and wife a couple for SSI benefits. Two people who are a couple for Social Security are a couple for SSI.
Some states supplement SSI benefits, and some treat married couples as individuals, unlike the federal SSI. The federal basic SSI amount of $674 in 2011. The federal basic amount for a couple is $1,011 in 2011. A couple with unearned income only can make $1,031, while an individual can make $694 in unearned income. The states calculate their contributed supplement under state law, which may be different from the way the federal calculations are done.
- Social Security Online: Fact Sheet -- Update 2010
- Social Security Online: Policy -- Treatment of Married Couples in the SSI Program
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income -- General Information
- Social Security Online: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income