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SOCIAL SECURITY MATTERS Ask Rusty: Can my in-laws get supplemental security income?

Dear Rusty: I am wondering what the income limit is for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility. My in-laws are in their 70s. both drawing Social Security, and each has a pension from jobs they retired from.

I am wondering if they are eligible to collect SSI. They have income from all sources that is over $2,100 per month, they are on Medicaid, but they have no savings and few assets.

I have been told by a random family member that they are eligible for SSI, but with their income I have my doubts. All of my online hunt and peck research has made this as clear as mud. Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Helpful Daughter-in-Law

Dear Helpful Daughter-in-Law: Supplemental Security Income is a separate (non-Social Security) federal supplemental assistance program for low income seniors over 65 and for disabled or blind people of any age, but there are income limitations to qualify for SSI benefits and restrictions on assets as well.

Overall eligibility requirements for SSI are quite complex, especially for those with earnings from working (it’s also notable that only legal U.S. residents can get SSI).

Although some types of income and assets are not counted, only those with very low countable income and very few countable assets can get SSI assistance.

Countable income must be less than the federal Social Security benefit amounts for federal SSI benefits to be paid.

If your in-law’s current countable income is over $2,100 per month, that alone may disqualify them for SSI because their countable income is more than the federal SSI benefit of $841 per individual, or $1,261 per couple.

As mentioned, some types of income aren’t countable, but pensions and Social Security benefits do count (after a small $20 exclusion).

So if most or all of your in-law’s monthly income is from those two sources, they almost certainly won’t be eligible for additional assistance through SSI. Something else to be aware of is that any SSI benefit they might be eligible for would be offset by their Social Security payment, so if each of their individual Social Security payments are more than $841 a month, then there would be no additional benefit from the SSI program.

Here is a link at which an explanation of what types of income count, and don’t count, toward the SSI income limitation: ssa.gov/ssi/text-income-ussi.htm.

From the information you’ve shared about their current Social Security and individual pension benefits, it does not appear your in-laws will be able to gain any additional benefit from the SSI program.

The income restrictions for Medicaid eligibility are more generous and, since they’re in their 70s, your in-laws are obviously both on Medicare, as well, to help with their health care expenses.


Editor’s Note: After a long career in the data processing industry, Russell Gloor joined the Association of Mature American Citizens in 2013. Gloor received training from the National Social Security Association and was accredited by the NSSA® as a Social Security adviser in 2016. Currently part of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory team, he annually counsels thousands of American seniors about their Social Security options. In addition to answering Social Security questions daily, he also authors the AMAC Foundation’s nationally syndicated weekly “Ask Rusty” advice column and has written three instructional books about Social Security.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association. NSSA® and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory or email ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org.

Rusty Gloor