Low-income individuals and couples who qualify can benefit from Supplemental Security Income. The Social Security Administration manages and distributes SSI funds to disabled, blind or elderly who have low income and low resources. Funding for this program comes from general tax revenues, not Social Security. Some states add to the federal funds. You must qualify with low income and continue to report income changes within 10 days after the month in which they occur.
Four classes of income count for SSI calculations. Earned, unearned, in-kind and deemed income all count for benefit determinations. Your earned income includes wages, salary and tips. Unearned income is Social Security, veteran's benefits, profits from business ventures in which you do not participate and interest. In-kind income is like barter -- you trade your services for food or shelter. Deemed income applies if you qualify for SSI and someone in your household does not. If that person has income that benefits you, Social Security attributes part of that income to you for SSI calculations.
SSI allows exemptions for the first $65 of earned income every month, and the first $20 of unearned income. If you have no unearned income, you can exempt the first $85 of earned income each month. Social Security calculates all other earned income at 50 percent for SSI. This allows you to earn slightly more than double the federal benefit amount.
Calculating Maximum Earned Income
SSI monthly federal benefits are $674 in 2011. Some states add to this total to provide additional income for those who qualify. If you earn $1,433 in a month, you will receive no SSI benefits for that month.
Here's how to calculate your benefits. Your first $85 is exempt; subtract that from $1,433, for a total of $1,348. Divide the result by 1/2, to determine 50 percent of your income. Earning income of $674 cancels out the $674 SSI benefit. Social Security exempts any expenses incurred because of your disability or blindness, however, so you may claim these expenses against your earnings for the month.
Other Income Calculations
Thus, if you make $1,433 a month or $1,348 in earned un-exempt income, you cannot qualify for SSI. Because SSI recipients must be disabled, blind or elderly, and may not be able to earn income, Social Security subtracts unearned income at 100 percent after the $20 exemption. Therefore, the monthly limit on unearned income to qualify for SSI is $694. If you receive Social Security or veteran's benefits in excess of $694, you have reached the maximum monthly unearned income. In addition, you must add in-kind and deemed income to any earned, or unearned income each month to determine if you are entitled to SSI benefits.
- Social Security Online: Fact Sheet -- Update 2010
- Social Security Online: Effect of Work on a SSI Benefit
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income -- 2010 Edition
- Social Security Online: Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income -- Reporting Responsibilities
- Social Security Online: Publication 05-11015 -- A Guide To Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Groups and Organizations
- Social Security Online: Understanding Supplemental Security Income