Income and Asset Limits for SSI Disability Eligibility

To get disability benefits from SSI, you can't have much income or assets, though Social Security gives you some breaks when counting your income.

By , J.D. · University of Virginia School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a program that pays monthly cash benefits to blind or disabled children and adults who are blind, disabled, or over 65. SSI is different from SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), which is a program that pays benefits to disabled adults who have paid FICA taxes or self-employment taces over the course of their working history.

While both programs define disability the same way, the financial eligibility requirements are very different. SSI eligibility is discussed in depth below—for information on how SSDI handles income and earnings, see our article on SSDI benefits and eligibility.

SSI Disability Qualifications for Adults

SSI is a "needs-based" program, meaning that in order to qualify for SSI, you must have income and assets below a certain threshold. The asset limits are fairly straightforward—you can't have more than $2,000 in "resources" (assets) for a single person and $3,000 for a couple (not counting money in an ABLE account). For most people, "assets" basically just means the cash you have on hand or in your bank account (more on this below).

Calculating the income limits is more complicated, however.

How Much Money Can You Make and Still Get SSI?

The way the Social Security Adminisration (SSA) counts income is different from the way we usually think of income. Countable income includes wages or any other kind of money you earn from working, plus money you get from other sources like unemployment, Social Security retirement, or gifts from friends. Free food or shelter are also counted as income for purposes of reaching the income limit.

But because Social Security doesn't want to discourage people from working, the agency doesn't count all of your income in the SSI calculations. Your maximum countable income can't exceed the SSI income limit, and any money you earn above the SSI income limit reduces your monthly benefit. As a result, the maximum total income you can earn and still receive a (very tiny) SSI benefit is $1,971 per month in 2024.

2024 SSI Income Limits

The countable income limit for SSI is the same as the federal benefit rate—the maximum amount you can receive in SSI from the federal government. This amount increases every year. In 2024, the federal benefit rate is $943 per month for an individual and $1,415 per month for a couple, up from $914 for an individual and $1,371 for a couple in 2023.

How Does Social Security Count Income for SSI?

For people who are already working several hours per week—or who are thinking about picking up a part-time job—correctly calculating the amount of money they can make while on Social Security is a key part of the household budget. So it's important to understand how Social Security counts your income for purposes of SSI eligibility, and how any countable earnings above the income limits can reduce the amount of your monthly benefit.

Income That Social Security Doesn't Count Towards the SSI Limit

Social Security doesn't count all of your income towards the SSI limit. In fact, "non-countable" income is a pretty broad category that includes the following:

  • the first $20 of most income you receive in a month
  • the first $65 and one-half of any earnings over $65 received in a month (the "Earned Income Exclusions")
  • the value of any SNAP (food stamps) you receive
  • income tax refunds
  • need-based public assistance, and
  • any "impairment-related work expenses" (such as the cost of special transportation) you incur that you need for work.

You can find the full list of payments or services that Social Security won't count as income at the agency's Understanding SSI webpage.

Earned Income Exclusions

The earned income exclusions reduce the amount of your countable wages and make it easier to qualify for SSI if you're working. The exclusions explain the discrepancy between the SSI countable income limit ($943 per month) and the maximum amount you can earn and still qualify for SSI ($1,971 per month).

Here's how they work. Social Security disregards the first $20 of all income you have that month and the first $65 of earned income (wages from work). If you make $1,600 per month, that means that your countable income would be $1,515. Social Security then disregards half of the remaining earnings, leaving $757.50 in countable income for that month.

$757.50 is less than the SSI income limit (and federal benefit rate) of $943, so you'd still be eligible to receive SSI. But Social Security will subtract $757.50 from the maximum SSI rate, leaving you with a monthly benefit of just $185.50.

The more money you make, the less you'll receive in SSI. That's why the total amount you can earn and still be on SSI is $1,971—$1,971 minus $85 divided by two is $943. At that point, your countable income hits the SSI limit and your benefits would be reduced to zero. Couples generally can make up to $3,000 per month combined before their SSI check will disappear.

Household Income Calculations for SSI

In some circumstances, Social Security will consider the income of the other people living with you when calculating your income (a process called "deeming"). If you live with a spouse who doesn't receive SSI, part of your spouse's income will be included in your countable income—

but the agency will use the federal benefit rate for couples ($1,415) as your income limit instead of the lower individual limit. And when a disabled child applies for SSI, Social Security counts a portion of the parents' income as if it were the child's own.

SSI State Supplements

While the federal benefit rate sets the baseline for SSI income limits and benefit amounts, states have the option to provide supplemental payments to SSI recipients. In fact, most states have an SSI supplement—the exceptions are Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia. State supplements range from $10 to about $700.

State SSI income limits increase with the amount of the state supplement, so if you're eligible for a higher monthly SSI amount because of a state supplement, you can also have more countable income and still qualify for SSI. Many states vary the amount of their supplements based on your living situation. For example, people who live in nursing homes may qualify for higher supplements in some states.

What Assets Count as Resources for SSI?

Social Security counts most assets that you could turn into cash as "resources" that count toward the $2,000 limit (for an individual) and $3,000 limit (for a couple). Resources include cash at home or in the bank, stocks, vehicles (except for one vehicle you use for transportation), real estate (except for your home), and the cash surrender value of life insurance policies (unless the face value of the policies are $1,500 or less). If you don't have such a life insurance policy, you can have up to $1,500 in burial funds or burial insurance. The SSA doesn't count burial spaces as resources.

Ask Social Security About Your Income Limit

Figuring out how much of your income will be countable or how your state supplement affects the SSI income limit can be a challenge. Avoid making a potentially costly mistake by asking a Social Security representative to do the math for you. You can do this by contacting the Social Security field office nearest you or calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 between 8:00 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. (If you're deaf or hard of hearing, you can use the TTY number at 800-325-0778.)

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