Will Marriage Affect My SSI or Disability Benefits?
This information is current as of June 26, 2022.
Changes to disability benefits can significantly impact your lifestyle and peace of mind. So it’s essential to know whether marriage can influence what benefits you receive through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program.
Marriage can affect your disability benefits depending on your spouse’s income and your financial resources as a married couple. Since SSI eligibility factors your partner’s earnings, marriage can reduce or terminate your monthly benefits.
The SSI Program can be complex, and you and your household must meet several requirements to qualify. Although we have a broad understanding of why marriage can impact disability benefits, we need to understand why and in which specific circumstances could your disability benefits change.
What Does the SSI Program Involve?
The SSI Program helps elders and those with disabilities with little or no earnings. In addition, the program enables more vulnerable individuals to access necessities such as food and shelter.
Knowing whether someone is eligible to receive benefits from the SSI program can be tricky. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists several requirements for the meaning of disability, the meaning of limited income, and more. However, a primary need to be eligible is that you must be someone 65+ years old, disabled, or blind.
Moreover, other requirements include (but are not limited to) the fact that you must also:
- Have access to only very few resources
- Have insufficient income
- Be a US citizen (for the most part)
- Be a resident of any one of the 50 states (or other specific areas)
If I Get Married, Will I Lose My Disability Benefits?
Regarding income, the SSA also counts specific types of earnings in deciding whether you qualify and how much disability benefits you can receive. For example, the SSA factors income from personal wages, pensions, unemployment benefits, and deemed income.
SSI Deemed Income
Deemed income is the income your spouse or your parents earn if you live with your parents. When you marry, combining your incomes can lead to you not meeting the criteria of having an insufficient income.
Types of income that the SSA will measure as your own in marriage include SSDI benefits and any earnings from casual work.
SSI Deemed Resources
To be part of the SSI program, you must have limited resources, but what exactly are resources? Resources refer to cash and all specific items that you own that you can convert to money, such as bank accounts, stocks, cash, and deemed resources.
According to the SSA, you must not have more than $2,000 as an individual to meet the requirement for resources. As a married couple, your countable resources should not be worth more than $3,000 if you want to qualify for the SSI program. As a result, as an individual, you can have more resources and still be part of the SSI program than if you marry.
It may be helpful to know that your house, vehicle, scholarships, and home energy assistance do not count as being part of your resources. In addition, disaster relief assistance and certain trusts also do not count as part of your resources.
Selling a Resource
If you choose to sell a resource that is placing you above the resource limit, you may still be able to receive SSI benefits. However, suppose you or your spouse sell the item for less than its value. In that case, you could be ineligible to receive disability benefits for up to three years.
The time you are ineligible depends on the actual value of the resource you chose to transfer, whether by selling or giving away. After receiving payment for the transfer, if the cash places you at more than $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple, you will not qualify for the program.
There can be exceptional circumstances that make it difficult to determine the effect of marrying on your disability benefits. Although it can be complex, let’s look at some common examples and what they mean for your SSI benefits.
Partner’s Yearly Income Is Less Than $5,000
If your spouse makes less than $5,000 per year or around $420 per month, there should be no changes to your SSI benefits. This is because the SSA will not factor in small earnings when calculating how much of your spouse’s income is deemed to you.
Should you have children, your partner can earn more without the SSA factoring in their earnings as income. For example, if you have one child and your spouse makes less than $840 ($420 x 2) per month, then the SSA will not factor in that income. With two children, the SSA will not factor in an income of $1,260 ($420 x 3) per month.
Continuing the same SSDI
You are dual-eligible if you receive SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Therefore, even if a marriage can impact how much SSI you can obtain, there should be no changes to your SSDI.
Other SSDI eligibility criteria do not depend on your earnings. For SSDI benefits, you qualify if you work in employment positions that Social Security covers for a long time and in a recent enough time frame. Also, you must have a medical condition that fulfills Social Security’s meaning of disability.
Whether you marry or remain single, if you fit the SSDI eligibility criteria, it will not influence your SSDI benefits.
Both Partners Receive SSI
Suppose both you and your spouse receive SSI benefits. In that case, combining your income can put you over the income limit for receiving SSI and cause either one or both of you to have a reduction in your benefits. Sometimes, it could put you far over the income and resources limit that you no longer qualify for the SSI program.
Deemed Income Calculation
The SSA has a calculation for deciding what portion of your spouse’s earnings are deemed as your own. In addition, there are specific guidelines you can follow to estimate deemed income.
Start with the total monthly income for both yourself and your spouse. Next, subtract $420 or more depending on how many children you have. For example, if you have four children, subtract $1680 ($420 x 4). Next, check if you can make deductions depending on what the SSA does not count.
Examples of what the SSA does not factor in include:
- If you have $20 in earnings through any other channels not counting wages
- Food stamps or SNAP
- Housing assistance
- If someone pays the medical bills for your treatment(s)
After all deductions, the SSA will deem the remaining amount to you.
Earnings That the SSA Considers as Income
You must know what earnings the SSA considers part of your monthly income other than salary, SSDI, or payments from casual jobs. Income is not just what you receive in cash. It can also include other items you can trade or exchange for money. Examples of payment include:
- Child support
- Benefits you receive from free food or shelter from a source other than government aid. For example, if you live with someone without having to pay rent or receive any food for free from close contacts.
A reduction or elimination in the benefits you receive can be very concerning. If you choose to marry, you must factor in the potential changes to your lifestyle if you are receiving disability benefits. With the above guide as a reference, make sure you understand the possible changes and take the necessary precautions to maintain your way of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are Earnings So Significant in the SSI Program?
Your income is an essential factor in whether you qualify for the SSI program since the intention of SSI is to support specific types of individuals who have little or no income. Therefore, if you have an income over a certain amount, you no longer meet the criteria for having little or no earnings.
In Which Cases Does Deemed Income Apply?
After marriage, the SSA deems some of your spouse’s income to be yours. It applies to earnings from your salary and freelance work. It also only applies if your spouse earns over a certain amount each month ($420). Depending on whether you have children, there will also be changes in the calculation of deemed income.
How Do You Calculate Countable Income?
To calculate your countable income, you start with your total gross income. Next, you subtract any income that the SSA does not count using that figure.
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