More than 8 million U.S. residents collected $4.3 billion in Supplemental Security Income benefits in March 2011. Recipients must be at least age 65, or blind or disabled. In addition, income and assets must fall within certain limits. Assets include cash, funds held in bank accounts, investments, non-home property – and vehicles.
Exclusion of One Vehicle
SSI recipients may own one vehicle regardless of its value without affecting eligibility. The vehicle must be used for transportation and be in running condition or only temporarily out of commission. Vehicles include more than cars and trucks – boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles and even animals used for transportation can qualify as "vehicles" for SSI program purposes. If the recipient owns two vehicles, the second vehicle could affect SSI eligibility.
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Resource Limits on SSI
SSI recipients are permitted some resources. For example, the principle place of residence, one car for transportation, a burial insurance policy with a face value of $1,500 and usual household furnishings are not material to eligibility. Countable resources such as non-home real estate, cash and investments cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 combined for a married couple. If a disabled child receives SSI, any assets of the parents above the limit -- $2,000 for one parent or $3,000 for two – count against the child's $2,000 resource limit. Social Security would use a second car belonging to an individual, his spouse or either parent of a child to calculate countable resources.
Second Car and SSI Eligibility
Social Security considers the equity value of the second car a resource available to the recipient. The equity is the net amount the owner could receive upon selling the vehicle. If the recipient uses both cars for transportation, SSA can exclude the one with the most equity and count the one with the least equity to permit eligibility. For example, the recipient owns two cars and uses both to go to a doctor, work or shopping. One car is free of liens and could be sold for $5,000. The second has a trade-in value of $5,000, according to the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) guide, but the recipient owes $4,500 on it. The SSA can ignore the car with no loan against it and count the $500 in equity of the second against the resource limit. If the equity of the second car combined with other countable resources does not exceed the resource limit, the recipient can own two cars and receive SSI.
Special Exclusion for a Second Vehicle
If an SSI recipient owns a second car, it may not affect eligibility if Social Security determines the car is property necessary for self-support. If the second vehicle is necessary for the operation of a trade or business, it can be excluded from resources regardless of its value. The vehicle must be currently in use for a business – the possibility of being needed in the future does not exclude the vehicle. Social Security will evaluate that the working individual does operate a trade or business and that the second vehicle is necessary for business uses.