If you are disabled and can’t work, you might qualify for one of Social Security’s two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is for those without a recent work history, and for those with limited income and assets. If you’re approved for SSI you’ll receive a monthly benefit payment that is based on your family size, the disability status of others in your family, and income.
SSI’s maximum monthly benefit is $841.
SSI generally pays less than SSDI. While the maximum SSDI benefit is around $3,200 per month, the largest monthly benefit an individual can receive in 2022 SSI is $841. That maximum benefit amount is adjusted annually. So if your SSI claim is approved it can be expected to increase a small amount each year.
If your spouse is also disabled, your benefit does not double.
One might expect that if there were two SSI-eligible disabled adults, that they might qualify for double the maximum individual benefit. If that were true, disabled couples would qualify for $1,388. However, if both spouses are disabled and qualify their household will only receive $1,261 combined. If you are married and your spouse is not disabled, the maximum benefit is still only $841 in 2022. But, if there’s income coming into your household, that number is likely to decrease. From time to time Congress looks at changing the “marriage penalty” but as of 2022 married disabled couples’ benefit will max out at $1,261.
Benefit reduced by income.
Both earned income and unearned income will reduce your SSI payment. Earned income is what you get paid for work - wages. Unearned income is money your household received, but not for work. This could include a spouse’s disability or retirement benefit from Social Security. It could include a pension or VA benefit.
When calculating your SSI benefit, Social Security looks at earned income and unearned income differently. Both, however, will reduce your monthly SSI. If your earned income and unearned income are too high - either on their own or in combination - it will totally eliminate your SSI benefit and make you ineligible.
In essence, Social Security will reduce your SSI benefit by a dollar, each dollar your household receives in unearned income. Also, Social Security will reduce your SSI benefit by fifty cents for each dollar that your household receives in earned income.
There are some other rules. In general, Social Security doesn’t count your first $20 of unearned income. They also don’t count the first $65 of monthly earned income.
Asset limits for SSI.
Because SSI is a needs-based program, you don’t qualify just by showing that you are disabled and can’t work. As discussed above, you also must have limited income. Not only must you have limited income, if you have too many assets then you will also be ineligible for SSI.
Generally, you may not have more than $2,000 in assets if you are a qualifying individual or $3,000 if you and your spouse are both disabled. Fortunately, not all assets are counted towards those asset limits. If you have one car, it will not count towards the $2,000 or $3,000 limit, but if you have two cars the second car will count. Your home will not count against you, but if you have a second piece of land - even if it does not have a house, barn, or other structure on it - it will count against you. Social Security will also look at the money in your checking and - if you have one - savings account to see if you are over the asset limit.
If you have too many assets, you can become eligible if you spend those assets down. For example, if your only asset is a $5,000 savings account you will be ineligible. But if you spend enough of that savings account to get below the $2,000 or $3,000 asset limit, you may become eligible for SSI if you otherwise qualify.
Where to learn more and calculate your SSI benefit:
Qualifying for SSI can be difficult. You must show that you are disabled. You must show you are not over income. You must show that you do not have too many assets. If you want to learn more about what your benefit might be check out one or more of the following:
- By logging into or creating a “My Social Security” account you can get a formal estimate from the Social Security Administration of what your SSI benefit amount would be.
- Use Disability Alabama’s Benefits Calculator for a rough estimation of what your SSI benefit would be. Calculator NOW AVAILABLE!
- If you are in Alabama, contact Disability Alabama for help with your disability application, or appeal.