The amount of SSI disability benefits that you'll receive will be different depending on whether you are married, whether your state pays a state supplement that increases your payment, and whether you have any countable income that decreases your payment.
The ordinary SSI payment in 2014, without any reductions for income or additions for a state supplement, is $721 for an individual and $1,082 for a couple. From year to year, those amounts, called the “federal base rate,” increase to account for increased costs of living.
How Your Marital Status Affects Your SSI Payment
If you are married to and living with another person who collects SSI, then you will receive the SSI amount for couples, $1,082. Notice that $1,082 is less than you would receive if both spouses collected the full SSI amount for individuals ($721 x 2 = $1,442). Social Security pays a reduced SSI amount for couples because it assumes that some of your costs are shared, like housing.
How Your Income Affects Your SSI Payment
Your SSI payment will be reduced by the amount of any income that you have, except for certain amounts that Social Security may disregard. In particular, Social Security disregards the first $20 of any monthly income, and the first $65 of any earned income (wages from work or self-employment income). Social Security also disregards one-half of the remaining income that you earn every month. The result is your "countable income."
So, for example, if Sanjay earns $700 each month, Social Security disregards the first $85 to arrive at an earned income of $615. Then, Social Security disregards one-half of the remainder, leaving Sanjay with countable income each month of $307.50. To determine the amount of Sanjay’s SSI payment, subtract $307.50 from the federal base rate of $721, and Sanjay will receive $413.50. This example assumes that Sanjay is not eligible for a state supplement. If he were eligible for a state supplement, then his SSI payment would be higher by the amount of the supplement.
There are other kinds of income that Social Security does not consider to be countable income. Here are some examples.
- Disabled students under 22 are able to disregard about $7,000 in earnings annually.
- Individuals who are setting aside money in a PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Sufficiency) account are able to save that money without having it count as income that will reduce their SSI payment.
- Social Security does not count expenses for work that are disability related (such as special transportation or chairs).
- Tax refunds and loans that you have to repay are also not countable income.
How Your Living Situation Affects Your SSI Payment
If you are given free room and/or board, Social Security will count it as "in-kind income," and will reduce your SSI payment to account for it. In most cases where an SSI recipient is receiving free food or shelter, Social Security will take away one-third of his or her SSI payment.
Social Security does not expect spouses to share food and shelter expenses equally, and so the same in-kind support rules do not apply to spouses. So, for example, your spouse can pay the entire rent on the apartment that you both live in, and it will not count as in-kind income. Keep in mind, though, that if your spouse has regular income, Social Security may "deem" part of that income to you when it determines whether you meet the financial requirements for SSI. Social Security has complicated formulas for when and how it deems spousal income, and the formulas vary depending on how many minor children live with you.
Food and shelter given to you as a government benefit do not count as in-kind income. For example, if you live in federally subsidized housing, Social Security will not count your rent as in-kind income. Similarly, Social Security does not count SNAP ("Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," formerly food stamps) benefits as income to you.
How Your State Affects Your SSI Payment
Another factor that affects the amount of your SSI payment is whether you are entitled to a state supplement. Most states give supplemental payments to SSI recipients. Only Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia do not have a state supplement. Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas pay a small supplement to SSI recipients living in Medicaid nursing homes.
Many states do not pay the same state supplement amount to every SSI recipient. Instead, they pay smaller supplements to some SSI recipients and larger supplements to others, based on a variety of factors that also differ from state to state. For example, a common system for the payment of state supplements is to pay an increased supplement to SSI recipients who are living in nursing homes or assisted living, to account for the higher cost of living in a facility. You can find the amount of the supplemental payment for all states in disabilitysecret.com's state-by-state disability pages.