Understand income and your Supplemental Security Income

If you want to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), one thing you need to do is to identify how much income you have. There are several kinds of qualifying income you need to disclose. Some of these include:

  • Earned income
  • Unearned income
  • In-kind income
  • Deemed income

Earned income refers to wages from self-employment or employment. Unearned income could be income from interest, Social Security benefits or gifts from friends or relatives. Deemed income is a portion of the income of your spouse, sponsor (if you're an alien in the U.S.) or your parents (if you live with them). In-kind income is the income assumed based on the receipt of free or reduced food or shelter.

The more income you have, the less your SSI benefits will be. However, there are exemptions that allow you to earn without reducing your SSI. For example, the first $20 earned or received in any month is exempt. Income tax refunds are exempt. Food stamps and scholarships also don't count toward the SSI income limits.

There are additional types of income that don't count toward SSI including:

  • Gifts used for education or tuition
  • Shelter or food given by nonprofit agencies
  • The first $65 of earnings and half of all earnings over that amount in a single month
  • Home energy assistance
  • Earnings of up to $1,870 each month
  • Money someone else spends to pay for your expenses unrelated to shelter or food
  • There are other exceptions, too.

Your attorney can talk to you more about what your true income is for the purposes of Supplemental Security Income.

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