SSI Disability Eligibility: Income Limits

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a disability benefit available to those with very low income and few assets. Here are the rules on financial eligibility.

By , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program benefiting seniors and disabled people (both children and adults) whose incomes fall below a certain amount. The income limit in states that don't pay a supplement (additional benefits) is the SSI "federal benefit rate."

To qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet the income and asset limits and be at least 65 years old or considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This article will discuss the income limits you must meet to qualify for SSI disability benefits, including how Social Security counts income.

What Is the Federal Benefit Rate for SSI?

The federal benefit rate (FBR) is the maximum amount of SSI benefits that individuals and couples can receive. In 2024, the individual amount is $943 per month. The FBR for couples is $1,415 in 2024. (Most years, there's a cost-of-living increase of a few dollars.)

If you're approved for SSI benefits, these maximums reflect the most you can get from the federal government. Many states offer a "state supplement," which increases the monthly SSI payment you can receive and also increases the SSI income limit for that state.

How the SSI Income Limit Works

The FBR, the monthly income limit for SSI, works as follows:

  • If your income is higher than the FBR (plus the state supplement, if applicable), you won't qualify financially for SSI.
  • If you have no income, you'll receive the full amount of SSI (the FBR amount) plus any applicable state supplement.
  • If you have some income, but it's below the FBR, you'll be financially eligible to receive SSI. But your monthly SSI payment will be reduced by a portion of your income.

Social Security doesn't consider all your income in determining whether you qualify for SSI and how much your monthly benefits will be. Social Security considers only "countable income." As a result, you can actually make more than the federal benefit rate and still receive a small SSI benefit.

What Kinds of Income Aren't Countable Toward SSI Limits?

There are a few types of income that Social Security doesn't count. Those include the following:

  • income tax refunds
  • the value of food stamps
  • the value of expenses you receive from others (like medical bills or utility bills paid directly by friends or family members), and
  • about half of your wages.

What Will Social Security Count As My Income?

Social Security will count most earned and unearned income and even some income you don't personally earn. For example, if you're getting SSI and you live with a spouse who isn't also receiving SSI, Social Security might count part of your spouse's income as your own.

This is called "deeming," and it can also occur between children receiving SSI and their parents. The rules regarding deeming are complicated, and not all of the spouse's (or parent's) income will be counted.

Another common situation that could reduce the amount of your SSI payment is when you receive free food or shelter from a friend or family member. Social Security considers free room and board as "in-kind income." And the SSA will reduce your SSI payment by up to one-third in such a situation.

Note that loans, even those for food and shelter, don't count as income and won't reduce your SSI payment. If you agree in writing to repay your friend or family member the value of the food or shelter (or other item), Social Security might not reduce your monthly benefit. This contract should be signed by both parties, and a copy should be sent to Social Security.

Contact Social Security for Help With Your SSI Claim

Figuring out whether your income falls under the limit is complicated, especially if you live in a state that pays a supplemental benefit. If you're trying to figure out whether you'll qualify for SSI or whether receiving certain income or gifts will put you over the SSI limit, speak to a field representative at your local Social Security office or by calling the SSA at 800-772-1213.

If you believe that Social Security has wrongly denied your SSI claim or reduced your benefit amount, you might benefit from speaking with a disability attorney. An experienced lawyer can review your case and help you file an appeal.

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