Resource and Income Limits

To see if you qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) will:

If your resources and countable income are below the limits and you have a disability, Social Security will give you a monthly SSI benefit to help you pay for your basic needs. The amount you get each month will depend on how much other income you have.

SSI’s Resource Limit

When you apply for SSI, you have to list money and property that you own. These are called resources.

Some resources don’t count towards SSI’s resource limit, like the home you live in and and one vehicle. Social Security has a complete list of excluded resources.

Additionally, if your disability began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where you can keep up to $100,000 in resources and not have them counted by SSI. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

Countable resources are all resources that aren’t excluded. You must have less than $2,000 in countable resources ($3,000 for a couple) to qualify for SSI benefits.

If your countable resources are below the resource limit, you may qualify for SSI.

Example
Billy has $4,000 in a savings account, so he does not qualify for SSI benefits.

SSI’s Income Limit for Your Living Situation

The most you can get in SSI each month is what Social Security thinks somebody in your situation needs to spend on basic needs. The countable income limit for getting SSI is the same as this maximum benefits amount.

This table shows the maximum possible SSI benefits for some common living situations. These situations are explained in detail below.

SSI Monthly Maximum Benefits/Countable Income Limits

Single individuals

Couples where both partners
qualify for SSI

If you pay for your own food and shelter

$735

$1,103

If you get help paying for food and shelter

$490.00

$735.33

If you live in a medical facility

$30

$60

Note: These numbers are adjusted each year for the cost of living.

Not all income is countable

Social Security doesn’t count all of your income when they look at whether you qualify for SSI and, if so, how much you should get in benefits each month. For example, you could make $1,500/month at work and still qualify for SSI, because Social Security would not count more than half of your earned income.

Learn more about how your income is counted for SSI.

Living Arrangements

If you live alone, the most you can get in SSI each month is $735. However, the countable income limit for SSI and the maximum benefit you can get may be different if:

  • You are married
    • If you live in the same household as somebody else and the two of you act as though you are married and present yourselves to the community as being married, Social Security will consider you a married couple for SSI purposes.
  • Somebody else helps pay the costs of your food and shelter, or
  • You live in an institution, such as a hospital, nursing home, or prison.

If you are under 18 and living with your parents or relatives, the rules are different. Learn more about them in DB101’s Benefits for Young People article.

Rules for Couples

How SSI looks at your income and possible benefits depends on whether your spouse also qualifies for SSI.

If Your Spouse Does Not Qualify for SSI

If you are married and your spouse doesn’t qualify for SSI, then Social Security figures out how much of your spouse’s income can be used to help pay for your basic needs. This process is called spousal deeming. For each dollar of your spouse’s income that can be deemed, your maximum SSI benefits amount will go down by a dollar.

Example

Magda injures her spine and applies for SSI. Social Security reviews her application and decides that she has a disability and that she and her husband, José, are below the resource limit. When they look at José’s income from his part-time job, they figure that he can use $450 of his monthly income to help pay for Magda’s basic needs. After the spousal deeming, the maximum possible SSI benefits amount Magda could get each month is $735 - $450 = $285.

If Your Spouse Does Qualify for SSI

Social Security calls you part of an “eligible couple” if:

  • You are married
  • You live with your spouse, and
  • Both you and your spouse qualify for SSI.

The most an eligible couple can get in SSI each month is $1,103 (only about 150% of the individual maximum of $735).

Rules If Somebody Else Helps Pay for Your Food and Shelter

If you are single and pay for your own food and shelter, you get up to $735/month in SSI benefits. Shelter expenses can include rent, mortgage payments, property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity, water, sewer service, and garbage collection. To qualify for this benefits amount if you live alone, you cannot get help paying for these expenses. If you live with other people, you must pay your fair share without getting help.

If someone else pays for some or all of your food and shelter, Social Security may reduce the maximum SSI benefits amount you can get. This is called in-kind support and maintenance and how Social Security counts it depends on your situation.

The Value of One-Third Reduction (VTR) Rule

The VTR rule says that the most you can get in SSI benefits goes down by one-third if:

  • You live in somebody else’s household, and
  • Somebody in that household helps with both food and shelter.

The VTR rule is all or nothing. It doesn’t matter how much you actually get in free food or free shelter; all that matters is that you get both from somebody living in the same household and you don’t pay anything for them yourself.

Usually, the maximum SSI benefit is $735. The VTR reduction is one-third of that, or $245.00. Therefore, if the VTR rule applies, the maximum SSI benefits amount most people can get is $735 – $245.00 = $490.00.

The Presumed Maximum Value (PMV) Rule

The PMV rule says that the most you can get in SSI benefits goes down by a certain amount if:

  • Somebody helps you with food and/or shelter, and
  • The VTR does not apply to your case.
    • Examples: The VTR does not apply if you do not live in the same household as the person helping you with your food and shelter, or if the person helping you does not help with both food and shelter.

The exact amount your maximum SSI benefits go down depends on your situation:

  • By default, it will go down by one-third of the maximum SSI benefit plus $20. For 2017, this Presumed Maximum Value (PMV) is $265.00 for an individual.
  • However, if the actual help you get paying for food or shelter is worth less than the PMV, then your SSI benefits will only be reduced by the actual support amount.
    • If the value of the support you get is less than the default PMV, you must show Social Security documentation of how much support you actually get.

Note: The support you get according to the PMV rule counts as unearned income for SSI. Because SSI's general income exclusion means the program doesn't count your first $20 in unearned income, the amount of SSI benefits you get may be the same regardless of whether the VTR or PMV applies.

PMV examples
  • Edgar lives in a house with roommates and gets SSI benefits. He pays for his own food, but his father pays Edgar’s rent, which is $500/month. Because $500 is more than the default PMV amount ($265.00), the PMV amount is used to calculate his SSI benefits. His benefits amount is $735 – ($265.00 – $20 for the general income exclusion) = $490.00. ­
  • Manon lives in an apartment and gets SSI benefits. Her grandmother sends $120 each month to the landlord to help with the rent. If Social Security applied the full PMV amount ($265.00), Manon’s SSI benefits would be just $490.00 per month. But, because Manon showed Social Security that her grandmother's help was lower than PMV, her benefits amount is $735 – ($120 – $20 for the general income exclusion) = $635.

Rules If You Live in a Medical Facility

If you live in a medical facility, such as a hospital or nursing home, you probably can’t get full SSI benefits:

  • If Medicaid pays for more than half the cost of your care in the facility, the most you can get in SSI benefits is $30/month.
  • If Medicaid does not pay for more than half of your care in the facility, you may qualify for a different SSI benefits amount.
  • If your doctor says you will be in the facility for less than 90 days and you can show that you need your SSI benefits to keep your home or living arrangement, you may continue to get your full SSI benefits.
    • Note: If you’re expecting to stay for less than 90 days, you need to get the doctor’s note and documentation about your need to Social Security right away. The facility’s admissions office can help you.
  • If you are planning to move out of the facility and into an approved Adult Care Facility, Adult Foster Home, or Residential Care/Assisted Living Facility, Ohio’s Residential State Supplement (RSS) program for adults who get SSI, SSDI, or Social Security retirement benefits may help you pay for room, board, and services. Learn more about the RSS program.