In this post, we will review the SSI income limits. We will explain in detail how much you can earn and still continue to receive Supplemental Security Income benefits. In addition, we will review the income limit for a child and for married couples.
This post on SSI income limits will cover:
- What is Supplemental Security Income?
- What is Counted as Income for SSI?
- How Much Will I Receive in SSI Benefits?
- SSI Income Limits for 2020
- How do I apply for SSI?
- SSI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Supplemental Security Income?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program, managed by the Social Security Administration, that pays monthly cash benefits to disabled, blind, or elderly people (and even some children) with little income and few assets.
In June 2019, 8.1 million people collected SSI benefits. Of that number, 1.1 million recipients were children.
In addition, for nearly 60% of recipients, SSI benefit payments represent their only source of income.
Why did Congress Set up the SSI Program?
The SSI program was created by the Social Security Amendments of 1972 and began operations in 1974.
It was created to replace the patchwork system of federal grants to states for aid to disabled, blind, or elderly people with limited means.
SSI payments are intended to supplement the incomes of individuals who were ineligible for Social Security or whose benefits could not provide a basic living.
Many SSI recipients have worked long enough to collect Social Security but their Social Security benefit is low enough that they also qualify for SSI.
Nearly 33% of adult SSI recipients under age 65, and almost 60% of recipients over 65, also get Social Security.
Although administered by the Social Security Administration, the SSI program is funded from the U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust fund.
Who is on SSI?
Here is a breakdown of SSI Recipients by age groups for 2019.
Disabled Adults (Ages 18-64) – 58%
Elderly (Ages 65 or higher) – 28%
Disabled Children (Under Age 18) – 14%
How Much Will I Recieve in SSI Benefits?
SSI benefit payments, also called the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) are the same amount nationwide.
For 2020, the maximum SSI benefit is $783 a month for an individual or $1,175 a month for a couple.
That’s slightly up from the 2019 maximum monthly benefit payment of $771 for an individual or $1,157 for a couple.
However, the amount you get may be different. It depends on your income and living arrangements.
Some states also add more money to the SSI benefit you get from the Social Security Administration.
Who is Eligible for SSI?
To qualify for SSI, you must meet the eligibility requirements, including the asset and income limits below:
You may qualify for monthly SSI payments if you:
- you are 65 or older, blind or disabled;
- are a U.S. citizen or lawful resident;
- and you have very limited income and financial resources.
SSI Asset Limit for Eligibility
To be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, you cannot have more than $2,000 in assets for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.
However, not all assets are countable for SSI purposes. Countable assets include cash and financial assets that can be turned into cash, such as stocks, bonds or property.
They do not include the home you live in, a vehicle you rely on for transportation, or household goods, among other things.
SSI Income Limit – 2020
The SSI income limit is the amount of income you can have and still qualify for benefits. Here’s what you need to know:
What is Counted as Income for SSI?
You are eligible for SSI only if your income falls under the income limits. Income is any item an individual receives in cash or in-kind that can be used to meet his or her need for food or shelter.
This means that for SSI purposes, Income isn’t just money you make from a job. The Social Security Administration (SSA) counts the value of in-kind items as part of your income.
Types of income for SSI purposes:
Here are the types of Income for SSI purposes as provided by the Social Security Administration:
The money you earn as a result of performing work. This is called “earned” income because you have to do something to earn it.
Payments you receive from sources such as Social Security, veterans benefits, a pension, alimony, or child support. This is called “unearned income” because you don’t do anything to get it each month.
Any type of free rent/shelter or food benefits you are receiving from a non-governmental source.
For example, if you are allowed to live rent-free with a friend or your parents, this will be considered as income.
This is called “in-kind” income because it isn’t actually income, but it is essentially equal to earning the amount of money you would otherwise have to pay for the food, rent, and life necessities being provided to you.
A portion of income earned by other people in your house (like your spouse).
This is called “deemed” income, because although you don’t earn it, it is assumed that a portion of this money will go towards your care and upkeep.
What Income Is Excluded From the SSI Income Limit?
The SSA does not count the following income and benefits when calculating your income level:
- the first $65 of earned income (money derived from paid work) per month plus one-half of the remainder
- the first $20 of unearned income per month such as Social Security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, dividends and cash from friends and relatives
- the value of food stamps received
- income tax refunds
- home energy assistance
- small amounts of income received irregularly or infrequently
- grants, scholarships, fellowships or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses
- food or shelter based on need provided by nonprofit agencies
- loans to you (cash or in–kind) that you have to repay
- money someone else spends to pay your expenses for items other than food or shelter
Other income exclusions
If you’re a student under age 22, up to $1,900 of gross income per month or $7,670 per year is excluded for 2020.
If you’re disabled, any out-of-pocket expenses you pay for items you need in order to work can be excluded from income.
Also, if you’re blind, any money you spend to be able to work (such as transportation) can be excluded from your earned income for SSI purposes.
SSI Income Limit Calculator
After you are approved for SSI benefits, your ongoing financial eligibility for SSI is decided on a month-by-month basis, based on whether you are above or below the income limit.
This means you can be eligible in one month for SSI, and then not eligible in the next, and then eligible again in the following month depending on how much income you make/have.
Here is how your SSI benefit payments are calculated:
Step 1 – Calculate your countable income
To do this, subtract any income that is not counted from your gross monthly income.
Step 2 – Subtract that number from the Federal Benefit Rate
Next, subtract that number from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) to get your SSI federal benefit.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you make $625 per month from working, before taxes. Here’s how to calculate how much you will receive in SSI benefits:
First, since your income is “earned income”, the SSA won’t count the first $65 of earnings.
This leaves you with a countable income of $560 ($625 – 65) = $560
Next, the SSA doesn’t count half of the remaining earnings, or $280 ($560/2)
That leaves you $280 of countable income ($560-$280 = $280).
The $280 in countable income will be subtracted from the Federal Benefit Rate to arrive at your SSI payment.
As shown above, the federal benefit rate for 2020 is $783 for an individual so your SSI benefits amount will be $503:
$783-$280 = $503.
Maximum Income to Qualify for SSI
How much money can you make and still qualify for SSI benefits? That depends on where the income comes from.
Use the formula below to calculate your maximum income by income type – Earned or Unearned income.
From the formula above, If your income is from working, multiply the maximum federal benefit amount by two, and add $65.
If your income is from other sources, multiply the maximum federal benefit amount by two, and add $20.
This is the threshold where your SSI benefits would disappear completely.
This means that for a given month if you make more money than the maximum income amount, your SSI benefits will be zero for that month.
Maximum Income to Qualify for SSI in 2020
Based on the formula above, the maximum income you can earn to qualify for SSI in 2020 is as follows:
Maximum Income = (2 x Federal Benefit Rate) + $65
(783*2)+65 = $1,631
Income Type: Unearned Income
Maximum Income = (2 x Federal Benefit Rate) + $20
(783*2)+20 = $1,586
This means that if you earn income from a job if you make more than $1,631, you will not qualify for SSI benefits for that month.
In addition, if you have unearned income and get more than $1,586, you cannot get SSI benefits.
How do I apply for SSI?
There are three ways to apply for Supplemental Security Income:
Option 1 – Online
You can begin the process and complete a large part of your SSI application by visiting the Social Security website. Click here to be taken there.
If you need help creating a mySocialSecurity account, see our mySocialSecurity account help, which provides a step-by-step process on creating an online account.
Option 2 – Call the SSA
The second option in applying for SSI benefits is to call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Option 3 – Visit Local Social Security Office
The third option is to visit your local Social Security office. For a Social Security office near you, click here.
An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about the SSI application process and benefits.
How Much Will SSI Be in 2020?
The maximum SSI federal payment for individuals will increase from $771 to $783. For couples, it will increase from $1,157 to $1,175.
Some states offer additional money to SSI beneficiaries, so actual payments may be higher.
The table below shows the maximum annual income you can get in 2020 if you are on SSI:
|Recipient||2019||2020||Monthly amounts for 2020|
Do I have to earn Work Credits to Qualify for SSI?
No. Unlike Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are paid out of general U.S. Treasury funds, not from Social Security taxes.
Therefore, you do not need to have worked a certain amount years, or paid FICA taxes, to be eligible.
Can a noncitizen get SSI?
Some noncitizens do qualify for SSI.
What is the average SSI payment?
What are State Supplemental SSI Payments?
State Supplemental SSI Payments are monthly cash payments offered by the states to low-income individuals or their care providers to supplement federal SSI payment.
For 2020, the maximum Federal SSI benefit is $783 a month for an individual or $1,175 a month for a couple.
Therefore if your state offers supplemental payment, you would get a monthly SSI payment greater than $783 for an individual or $1,175 for a couple, assuming you qualify for maximum benefits.
However, state supplemental SSI payments vary by state.
For example, in Michigan, people who qualify for SSI also get an extra payment every three months of up to $42 and automatically get Medicaid coverage.
Do all States offer Supplemental SSI Payments?
No. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia offer supplemental SSI payments.
The states that don’t offer Supplemental SSI payment are Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia.
It is important to note that states that provide additional payments may have their own rules regarding income and eligibility.
You should, therefore, check with your state agency managing the benefits assistance program for eligibility rules.
How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
Social Security follows a five-step process to determine whether you are disabled.
For SSI, being disabled means that you cannot work because of a mental or physical problem that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months, or will end in death.
If Social Security finds that your problems significantly limit your ability to do basic work, you may qualify for disability benefits.
Social Security has a list of medical problems that are considered disabling. Some of these categories are respiratory, cardiovascular, mental disorders, and immune system.
If your medical problem matches or equals the requirements for one of these categories, your claim should be approved.
If your disability does not meet the requirements of one of the categories, you might still be considered disabled.
However, the SSA will now decide if your medical problems prevent you from doing any work you have done in the past (usually meaning the past 15 years).
If you are no longer able to do past work because of your disability, your claim should move to the next step of the procedure.
Next, if SSA decides that you cannot do past work, Social Security will consider your age, education, and past work skills to decide if there is other work you are able to do.
However, If Social Security finds that your medical problems prevent you from doing any past work or other work you should be found “disabled.”
You should be notified in writing by Social Security if you have been found disabled or not disabled.
If I get married, will it affect my SSI benefits?
If you get SSI benefits and you marry, your spouse’s income and resources may change your SSI benefit.
However, if you and your spouse both get SSI, your benefit amount will change from an individual rate to a couple’s rate.
If I get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and work, do I have to report my earnings to Social Security?
Yes, if you currently receive SSI benefits and you start working, you are required by law to report your wages to the Social Security Administration.
SSI Income Limits Summary
We hope this post on SSI Income Limits was helpful.
If you have further questions about Social Security, SSI or SSDI, please let us know in the comments section below.