Income & Resources
Nuts & Bolts
This tool will help you understand financial eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This tool also discusses how income and resources can affect SSI eligibility and monthly payments.
The Basics of SSI Financial Eligibility
The SSI program provides money on a monthly basis to people with disabilities who have limited income and savings. Because SSI is only for people with limited income and savings, it is means tested, meaning that a person’s financial means are checked as part of the application process. For example, a person’s Countable Resources can be no more than $2,000. Financial means are also checked on an ongoing basis, to ensure that a person remains eligible.
To be eligible for SSI, an individual’s Countable Income must be lower than their state’s SSI Base Rate. It is important to understand the details of how both Countable Income and the SSI Base Rate are computed.
A beneficiary’s monthly SSI payment is determined by subtracting their Countable Income from their state’s SSI Base Rate.
In most US locations, a person who is eligible for SSI is also eligible for Medicaid. Read Tool 6 to learn about this important benefit.
Understanding the SSI Base Rate
Each state sets an SSI Base Rate. This is the maximum amount of SSI that an individual can receive. A state’s SSI Base Rate includes the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) plus any SSI State Supplement that the state chooses to provide. Approximately 46 states provide an SSI State Supplement.
During calendar year 2023, the maximum SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) for an individual is $914 per month. The FBR is often adjusted annually based on a cost-of-living index.
For example, if State X provides a $50 State Supplement, the 2023 SSI Base Rate in that state is $964 per month.
Understanding Countable Income
The SSI program defines income as items received as cash, or in-kind, that a person can use to meet their needs for food or shelter. It breaks income into two categories:
- Earned income: This includes wages, net earnings from self-employment, royalties from published work, and honoraria payments (like a speaker’s fee).
- Unearned income: This is any other type of income, including Social Security payments and unemployment compensation. SSI is never counted as unearned income when calculating Countable Income.
When the SSI program calculates a person’s monthly Countable Income, it doesn’t just use the gross amounts received. Instead, it subtracts a variety of exclusions from the gross income.
It is crucial that all income be reported to SSA to ensure that accurate cash payments are calculated. Poor reporting of income can result in overpayments.
Countable Unearned Income
The SSI program determines a person’s Countable Unearned Income after subtracting any monthly unearned income exclusions. Common examples of income exclusions include:
- The first $20 of unearned income received in a month. This is called the General Income Exclusion (GIE).
- Gifts used to pay tuition or education expenses (if used for that purpose within 9 months).
- Income set aside in an approved Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS).
- Certain federal assistance to support higher education.
- For more examples, see the SSI Exclusions list on this site.
Countable Earned Income
The SSI program determines Countable Earned Income after subtracting applicable monthly earned income exclusions (also called work incentives), including:
- Earned income of full-time students, under age 22, up to $2,220 gross per month or $8,950 per year in 2023. This is called the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE).
- Any portion of the $20 General Income Exclusion not applied to unearned income.
- $65 per month and one-half of remaining earned income in a month.
- Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWEs), Blind Work Expenses (BWEs), and income set aside in an approved PASS.
- Income tax refund payments
Read Josiah’s Job Offer for an example of how Countable Earned Income is computed and to learn how the SEIE work incentive can significantly reduce income.
Work incentives can allow an SSI beneficiary to continue receiving SSI payments while earning wages from a job. For more about SSI work incentives, see Tool 4.
Let the Web Do the Work
The online, interactive SSI Calculation Worksheet can help you calculate Countable Unearned Income and Countable Earned Income.
It can also calculate an expected monthly SSI payment.
Resources and Eligibility
The SSI program defines a resource as money or anything an individual owns and can turn into cash to pay for food and shelter. If an individual’s resources exceed the SSI program’s $2,000 limit, then they will not be eligible for SSI.
The SSI program will treat money received as income in the month it was received. If the money is not yet spent at the start of the following month, it becomes a resource, subject to any resource exclusions. Resources are always counted at the stroke of midnight on the first day of a calendar month. If a beneficiary’s Countable Resources are more than $2,000 on the first of a month, they will not be eligible for an SSI payment for that month or any later months if Countable Resources remain above $2,000.
Certain resources are not counted in the $2,000 limit. These include:
- The house the SSI recipient lives in
- Household goods and personal effects
- One vehicle, if it is used for transportation for the SSI recipient or a member of their household
- Term life insurance (life insurance with no cash surrender value) no matter who purchased it
- Money saved in an ABLE account
- Money saved in a PASS account
For more examples, see the SSI Exclusions list on this site.