Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program of the Social Security Administration (SSA). It helps low income, elderly and disabled people by providing basic needs funding for food, shelter, and clothing and shelter. Since SSI is based on need, the SSA has very low income requirements that a person or family must meet in order to qualify for the program. Can you work while on SSI? Yes, you can work while receiving SSI benefits, as long as your wages fall below SSI’s income threshold.
When your only income is from a job, the income caps are based on the monthly federal benefit rate (FBR). An individual must earn less than $735, and a couple or family must earn less than $1,103. The SSA counts earned income from a job, but they also count passive income like stocks or income earned from rental property. In-kind income counts too, such as food or shelter you might receive from a family member or community group, so if you are living rent-free, or getting food from a shelter, it counts as income. SSA will also count any other benefits you might be receiving, such as veteran benefits, pensions, child support or alimony; these are all considered passive forms of income as well.
The SSA allows you to own a home and a single automobile while on SSI benefits, but you can’t own many more meaningful assets. These are capped at $2,000 per individual and $3,000 per couple or family. Meaningful assets are also called disposable assets, such as cash, property, stock, bank account, life insurance, or household goods. There are certain exclusions, like wedding rings, savings for burial, and PASS (Plan for Achieving Self Support) savings accounts.
Certain states provide their own assistance—ranging from $10 to $400 per month–in addition to the federal SSI supplement; SSI will generally subtract your state amount from the federal amount they are willing to pay you. Maryland residents fare very well because the state provides generous benefits. You might be eligible for temporary cash assistance and temporary disability assistance, and if you are living in a care home or assisted living facility, the state provides a generous SSI supplement.
To summarize, can you work while on SSI? Yes, but your total monthly income cannot exceed the FBR. If it does, you won’t qualify for SSI. The SSA fairly frequently changes the rules for SSI, so hiring an experienced lawyer can help. Give us a call and we’ll walk you through it.