How can someone with Special Needs become eligible for SSI – The Financial Tests

Today’s blog post continues the series about Special Needs Law.  The blog post on February 19, 2015 gave an overview of the legal issues facing people with special needs.  The blog post on February 5, 2015 discussed the new ABLE accounts.  The blog post on February 26, 2015 discussed sources of income for people with special needs.  The blog post on March 5, 2015 discussed medical insurance for people with special needs.  The blog post on March 12, 2015 discussed how the Social Security Administration requires people with special needs to prove a disability to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI.)

Today’s post discusses how to meet the income test and the asset test to become eligible (and maintain eligibility) for Supplemental Security Income (SSI.)

The income test is complicated.

  • SSI will pay no more than $733 per month for an individual or $1,100 per month for a couple.  (Those amounts get adjusted for inflation, usually annually.)
  • Monthly payments will be reduced by the amount of in-kind contributions (from non-governmental sources) that provide food, clothing, or shelter.  (For example, if a family member provides a room rent-free, the SSI payment will be reduced by the monthly value of the room.)
  • If the SSI applicant has a job, the SSI payment will be reduced, but only part of the income is counted toward the SSI reduction.  The first $65 doesn’t count, and one-half of the amount over $65 doesn’t count.  (If the applicant works infrequently, the first $30 each quarter is not counted.)
  • $20 per month of non-earned income won’t reduce SSI.  Any non-earned income over this $20 leads to a reduction.  (If the applicant receives non-earned income but does not receive it on a monthly schedule, then the first $60 per quarter is not counted so that it comes out the same as $20 per month.)
  • If the SSI applicant is part of a household in which other household members are not SSI applicants or recipients, SSI uses a complicated analysis of shared income to “deem” that some of the household income belongs to the SSI applicant.  The “deeming” analysis handles earned income differently than unearned income and considers the household’s children and whether some or all of the children are themselves SSI eligible.  (Maybe someday when I really want to put you to sleep, I’ll blog about deeming in more detail.)

The asset test is easy.  SSI is not available for an individual with assets above $2,000.  It is not available for a couple with assets above $3,000.  The asset test gets more complicated if an applicant needs long term care.

If the SSI applicant needs long term care (not just doctors and medicine, etc but help with bathing, dressing, grooming, etc.,) then the applicant will need Medicaid for long term care.  In Ohio (where I work with people who have special needs,) the applicant must not only pass the SSI asset test of $2,000 but must also pass the Medicaid asset test of $1,500 or less.  (The amount of money that a long-term-care-Medicaid applicant may have varies some from state to state, but is usually in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.)

Once someone has started to receive SSI payments, the person must maintain eligibility for SSI for the payments to continue.  Accordingly, the person must continue to meet the financial eligibility tests described above as well as the disability test described in last week’s blog.

 

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