What Counts As Income and Resources

Countable Income and Resources

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is designed to provide a basic income for low-income disabled people who have never been able to work, or who have not worked long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Recipients can only have a minimum amount of savings and possessions (what the Social Security Administration calls "countable income and resources") to qualify.

After reading the information below, you may still be confused about how to determine your countable income and resources. If you are, you are not alone. Many people find this aspect of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program confusing. The Social Security Department at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin understands Social Security law. We are here to try to help you receive the benefits to which you might be legally entitled.

How Countable Resources are Determined

A "resource" is defined as any item of value that a person owns such as:

  • Cash;
  • Bank account(s), stocks, U.S. savings bonds;
  • Land;
  • Life insurance;
  • Personal property;
  • Vehicle(s);
  • Anything else you own that could be changed to cash and used for food or shelter;
  • "Deemed" resources.

"Income" is any amount earned through a person's labor or investments.

To obtain Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the limit of countable resources for an adult or child is $2,000; it is $3,000 for a couple.

What is a Deemed Resource?

The term "resource" also includes "deemed resources," which are defined as a portion of the resources of a spouse, parent, or sponsor of an applicant that is considered to "belong" to the person who files for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

These include:

  • For a child under age 18 who lives with one parent, $2,000 of the parent's total countable resources is not considered as belonging to the child;
  • If the child lives with two parents, $3,000 of the parents' combined countable resources is not considered as belonging to the child.

Any amount over these limits counts as part of the child's $2,000 resource limit.

What Resources Do Not Count for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Many items are NOT counted as resources under Supplemental Security Income (SSI). They are:

  • The house a person lives in and the land it is on;
  • Household goods and personal effects;
  • Wedding and engagement rings;
  • Burial spaces for the applicant and his/her immediate family;
  • Burial funds for a person and his/her spouse valued at $1,500 or less;
  • Life insurance policies with a combined face value of $1,500 or less;
  • One vehicle, regardless of value, if it is used for transportation for the applicant or a household member;
  • Retroactive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security benefits for up to nine months after receipt (including payments received in installments);
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts set aside to pay educational expenses for nine months after receipt;
  • Medicaid benefits.

Other, more specialized resources that do not count include:

  • Property essential to self–support, such as property used in a trade or business (farm, beauty parlor), tools, uniforms, safety equipment, etc.
  • Resources that a blind or disabled person needs for an approved Plan for Achieving Self–Support (PASS);
  • Support and maintenance assistance and home energy assistance that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count as income;
  • Cash received for medical or social services that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count as income is not a resource for one month. However, cash reimbursement of expenses already paid for by the person is counted under the regular income and resources rules.
  • State or local relocation assistance payments are not counted for nine months;
  • Crime victim's assistance is not counted for nine months;
  • Earned income tax credit payments are not counted for nine months;
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses are not counted for nine months after the month of receipt, effective June 1, 2004;
  • Dedicated accounts for disabled or blind children;
  • Disaster relief assistance which the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not count as income;
  • Cash received for the purpose of replacing an excluded resource (e.g. a house) that is lost, damaged, or stolen;
  • Child tax credit payments are not counted for nine months; and
  • Some trusts.

Selling Resources

People may be able to sell real property or other resources that put them over the limit. People can receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits while trying to sell these assets. However, when the sale is complete, they must pay back the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits they received during the sales period. These are called "conditional benefits."

However, it is illegal for a person, his/her spouse or a co-owner to sell or give away a resource for less than it's worth in order to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. In such a case, a person will be ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for up to 36 months. How long a person is ineligible depends on the actual value of the resource.

About our North Carolina disability attorneys

Attorney Rick Fleming, who heads the department, is a Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law. Board Certified Specialists are acknowledged by the North Carolina State Bar as having special knowledge and proficiency in Social Security Disability Law. He is also bilingual, with fluency in both English and Spanish.

He is assisted by Attorney Crystal Rouse, who worked as an examiner for the Disability Determination Services (DDS) for eight years before becoming a Social Security Disability attorney. As an examiner, she decided the relative merits of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims and determined which claims to approve for benefits. She was certified as "Level II" examiner, meaning she was also involved in reconsiderations and conducting continuing disability reviews. In addition to Social Security law, Ms. Rouse has practiced in the areas of debtor/creditor mediation, domestic violence and employment securities law.

Several of our paralegals in the Social Security Department have at least six years of experience as Disability Determination Services (DDS) examiners for the Social Security Administration (SSA). Some of them were certified as "Level II" examiners, meaning they also were involved in reconsiderations and conducting continuing disability reviews. To find out more about our team, click here.

Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, our dedicated Social Security Disability lawyers work hard every day helping clients navigate through this difficult process. Don't hesitate to call our firm today for a free case evaluation. Call 1-866-900-7078. You also can contact us online.

Disabilty cases can become very complex very quickly. Most claims are initially denied, but some people may see good results after appealing. Contact us today to see if we can help.

Don't leave your future to chance. There's too much at risk. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. We're on your side.

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