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SSI Exclusions for Building Assets

Case Study 1: Daniel’s Transportation Dilemma

Graduation ceremonyDaniel, age 18, has a learning disability and a moderate hearing impairment. He gets $640 in Social Security Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) (on the Social Security record of a parent who is disabled) and an SSI payment of $323 per month. It is March, and Daniel will graduate from high school in June. He will begin attending college in September, studying to become an accountant. Daniel lives about 35 miles from the college and would like to obtain a used car to travel to and from the campus, since public transportation is not available where he lives.

His family is unable to help him obtain a car or to assist him with transportation. Given his financial situation, it seems impossible for him to attend classes and continue living at home.

Think about it. What needs to happen?

A PASS can be used to pay for items—such as a vehicle—that most State VR agencies will not be able to cover through an Individualized Plan of Employment.

Daniel can save for a car using a PASS. He creates a PASS proposal where he lists his vocational goal as accountant. He will save $620 of his Social Security each month toward the purchase of a $10,000 used car and to pay $2,000 per year for car insurance while attending school. He will save $3,120 between April and August: to make a $2,000 down payment on the car (with a car loan to finance the remaining $8,000); to pay $1,000 for his first 6 months of car insurance; and the remaining $120 to begin a maintenance and repair fund. During the remaining months of his 29-month PASS, Daniel’s $620 monthly deposits into the dedicated PASS account will be used to pay for monthly car payments on a 24-month loan (about $350 to $375 per month), to pay $2,000 per year in car insurance, and to pay for routine maintenance and repairs.

Here is how Daniel’s SSI payment is calculated without and with an approved PASS:


Without a PASS

With an Approved PASS

Daniel’s unearned income (this is his Social Security payment)



Subtract the $20 General Income Exclusion

$640 – $20 = $620 Total Countable Income

$640 – $20 = $620

Subtract Daniel’s monthly PASS contribution


$620 – $620 = $0 Total Countable Income

Subtract the Total Countable Income from the SSI Federal Benefit Rate (2024)

$943 – $620 = $294

$943 – $0 = $943

Daniel’s SSI payment




The takeaway

After Daniel’s PASS is approved, his monthly SSI payment goes up by $620—the exact amount of the Social Security that he has set aside in the dedicated PASS account. Daniel will still have the same $963 per month to meet expenses unrelated to the PASS.

Case Study 2: Candida’s Apartment

Young adultCandida recently turned age 21 and has a rare bone disease that limits her mobility. She gets monthly SSI disability payments of $943 and automatic Medicaid in her state. Candida is completing her second year of college studies. She has been living at home but would like to move into a $800 per month apartment (including utilities) near the college, with plans to be a high school science teacher. Her grandmother has offered to pay Candida’s rent and a security deposit, but Candida has learned that the SSI program would treat her rent payment as in-kind income and reduce her SSI payment by $314 per month.

Think about it. What needs to happen?

Candida starts an ABLE account in 2024 with a $1,000 deposit from her savings. Then her grandmother deposits $13,000 into the ABLE account. Candida’s parents put an additional $4,000 in the account when they receive their federal income tax refund. This puts the total ABLE account deposits at the 2024 limit of $18,000. Knowing that she could put up to an additional $14,580 into the account from her earnings, Candida deposits money into the ABLE account from her summer job wages. Note: Candida is eligible for SSI’s Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). For more information, see Tool 5.

Candida moves into her apartment in September with $19,500 in her ABLE account, including $1,500 from her summer job. She makes distributions from the ABLE account to pay a security deposit of $1,500 and first month’s rent of $800. Additional distributions pay $800 for rent in October, November, and December. As 2024 ends, $4,700 from the ABLE account has been distributed to pay expenses related to Candida’s apartment and $14,880 remains.

Since Candida’s housing expenses are Qualified Disability Expenses, the SSI program does not count them as in-kind income and her SSI payment remains at $943 per month. Since her ABLE account balances have been below $100,000, those balances are exempt resources for SSI purposes.

Despite having up to $19,500 in her ABLE account during the year, Candida continues to be an SSI recipient, and she continues to be exempt from the State VR agency’s economic needs test and is not required to contribute to the cost of her tuition and other college expenses currently paid through the VR agency.

Candida’s grandmother and her parents hope to contribute similar yearly amounts to her ABLE account while she remains in school. This will allow Candida to use the account for rent and for other expenses not covered by the State VR program. This should also allow Candida to save for a future vehicle purchase or down payment on a home.

The takeaway

Distributions from an ABLE account to pay for rent and other housing costs will not be counted by the SSI program as income.