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Resources and Applying for SSI Disability
Resources are your assets, that is, things that you own, such as real estate, vehicles, personal effects, cash, bank accounts, and financial instruments like stocks, bonds and insurance policies. The Supplemental Security Income Program—SSI—is intended to provide income to cover basic needs for individuals who do not have sufficient income and resources to provide those basics for themselves. For this reason there is a value limit to the things you can own and be eligible for SSI.
When applying for SSI Disability benefits, the value of your countable assets is added up to determine whether the total is less than the SSI resource limit, which in 2013 is $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for married couples. Not all resources are counted in determining your SSI eligibility, and we’ll review a few of the excluded resources later in this article.
Resource eligibility is determined based on what you own on the first of the calendar month. The value of an asset that comes into your possession counts as income in the month it is received. Any amount of it that is left on the first of the following month is counted toward the resource limit in the following month. For example, you receive an old boat and $1,000 cash as an inheritance in May. The boat is worth $500; therefore, your inheritance counts as $1,500 income in May and you are not be eligible for SSI that month. You used $710 of the inheritance to pay your May SSI overpayment. On June 1, you are again eligible for $710 SSI as you have no income and your total assets are $790—$290 cash carried over from the prior month plus the $500 boat.
The Social Security Administration counts the following resources unless a specific exclusion applies: deemed resources, cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, land, certain life insurance policies, personal property of significant value like valuable jewelry or art, vehicles with some exceptions, anything else you own that could be sold for cash and used for food or shelter unless excluded. For an explanation of deemed resources, please see our article, “Why Do I Have to Give Information about My Family’s Income and Assets When I Apply for SSI Benefits?“
Excluded Resources That Do Not Count
In general the following resources do not count towards the resource limit:
- The home you live in and the land it is on.
- Household goods and personal effects, such as your wedding and engagement rings
- Burial spaces for you or your immediate family.
- Burial funds, life insurance policies, and/or burial contracts for you and your spouse, totally $1,500 each.
- Usually one vehicle if it is used for transportation for you or a member of your household.
- Retroactive SSI or retroactive Social Security benefits for up to nine months after you receive them.
- Property essential to self-support and resources that a blind or disabled person needs for an approved Plan to Achieve Self-Support. These exclusions are discussed in “With Some Education, I Could Work Full-time and End My SSI Disability Eligibility. How Can I Get Money for Schooling?“
- Money saved in an Individual Development Account.
- Certain support and maintenance assistance and home energy assistance that we do not count as income.
- Cash received for medical or social services that we do not count as income is not a resource for one month.
- 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.
- Dedicated accounts for disabled or blind children.
- Disaster relief assistance that we do not count as income.
- Cash received for the purpose of replacing an excluded resource that is lost, damaged, or stolen is not counted for nine months.
- All Federal tax refunds and advanced tax credits received on or after January 1, 2010 are not counted for twelve months.
- The first $2,000 of compensation received per calendar year for participating in certain clinical trials.
- Some trust funds.
More Information about Burial Funds
In addition to a burial plot, SSI law excludes from countable resources burial funds up to $1,500 each for you and your spouse or parent if you are a minor. The $1,500 can take the form of a bank account that is set aside for burial, an insurance policy, or a prepaid burial contract, or a combination thereof. If the total amount set aside for burial exceeds $1,500 per person, then the excess value is counted toward the resource limit.
Any amount that is set aside must clearly show that it is to pay burial expenses. This can be done either by titling the account as a burial fund or by signing a statement that indicates the amount set aside, how the set aside was accomplished, the date you first considered it to be for burial expenses only, and for whose burial the money is to be used. Interest paid on a burial fund does not count as income or a resource, but if you spend any of the money set aside for burial on items unrelated to burial expenses, there may be a penalty.
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