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Summary of Key Things that do not Count as Income for SSI Recipients

Examples of payments/services the SSI program will not count as income include:  

 

  • The first $20 of most income received in a month; 
  • The first $65 of earnings and one–half of earnings over $65 received in a month; 
  • The value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamp) benefits received; 
  • Federal income tax refunds; 
  • Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits; 
  • Assistance based on need funded by a State or local government, or an Indian tribe; 
  • Small amounts of income received irregularly or infrequently; 
  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses; 
  • Food or shelter based on need provided by nonprofit agencies; 
  • Loans to you (cash or in–kind) that you have to repay; 
  • Money someone else spends to pay your expenses for items other than food or shelter (for example, someone pays your telephone or medical bills); 
  • Income set aside under an approved Plan to Achieve Self–Support (PASS);  
  • Earnings up to $1,870 per month to a maximum of $7,550 per year (effective January 2019) for a student under age 22;  
  • Cost of impairment–related work expenses for items or services that an SSI beneficiary needs in order to work;  
  • The cost of work expenses that an individual who is blind in order to work; 
  • Disaster assistance; and 
  • Certain exclusions on Indian trust fund payments paid to American Indians who are members of a federally recognized tribe.

SSI Resource Exclusions of Importance to Transition-Aged Youth and Their Families

The following are some key SSI resource exclusions that will be important to transition-aged youth and their families. 

 

Money Saved in an Approved Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) account.  

  • The PASS allows an individual to exclude income and/or resources that would ordinarily count against him or her to make them eligible for less SSI or no SSI.   
  • The income or resources set aside in the PASS must be used to support a vocational goal. 

 

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Account.  

  • An ABLE account allows an individual with a disability to save for future expenses, such as transportation, housing, or education costs without any impact on SSI, Medicaid or other federal benefits.  
  • So long as account distributions are used for “qualified disability expenses,” they are not counted as income.  
  • Up to $100,000 of the account balance is excluded and not counted toward SSI’s $2,000 resource limit.   
  • Because of the $15,000 annual limit on combined ABLE account contributions (any person or a trust can contribute), no SSI beneficiary is likely to have $100,000 in an ABLE account in the near future.  However, this policy does protect SSI eligibility when an ABLE account goes to $5,000, $10,000, or more in deposits.  

 

Grants, Scholarships, Fellowships, and Gifts Used to pay for Tuition, Fees, and Other necessary Educational Expenses 

  • SSI’s general policy provides a nine-month resource exclusion if money used within the nine months for tuition/other expenses for any college, vocational program, or technical school.  
  • If assistance is received under Title IV of Higher Education Act or Bureau of Indian Affairs Student Assistance Program, all financial assistance received is excluded from income and resources, regardless of use. The resource exclusion does not have a time limit, i.e., it is excluded regardless of how long the assistance is held. 

  

Federal Income Tax Refunds for 12 Months after Receipt  

  • This includes any part of the refund that represents an earned income tax credit.

An SSI Beneficiary’s Right to Automatic Medicaid Eligibility in Most States

In 41 States, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands, Eligibility for SSI Means the Person is Eligible for Medicaid 

  • In 34 of those states the SSI application serves as a Medicaid application.  Upon approval for SSI the person is automatically found eligible for Medicaid. 
  • The following seven states use the same rules to decide eligibility for Medicaid as SSA uses for SSI, but require the filing of a separate application:  Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.  This is also true in the Northern Mariana Islands. 

 

In the Nine Section 209(b) States, the State Medicaid Program Long Ago opted to apply Separate Medicaid Eligibility Criteria for SSI Recipients.   

The 209(b) states are Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia. 

 

A VR counselor should find out whether a separate Medicaid application will be needed for SSI recipients in your state and, if so, how to go about filing that application.  Your state or regional Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Project (see Web-Based Resources) should be able to give you that information.