Plans to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Usually, if you get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and have income from a job or from another benefits program, like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your SSI benefits amount will go down. Also, if you save up too much money in a bank account or build your assets in any other way, you could lose your SSI benefits because you have more than the resource limit ($2,000 if you’re single, $3,000 for couples).

Social Security’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program lets people who get SSI earn more money and save that money in a special type of account. There are two main benefits:

  • You can save up resources without losing your SSI benefits.
  • The income you put into your PASS won’t be counted as income by SSI, so it won't make your benefits amount go down.

The money that you save has to be used for a work-related goal you choose, such as:

  • The cost of school or training
  • Starting a business, or
  • Paying for equipment, support services, and other expenses related to your goal.

Note: If you already go to college or have a job, you can set up a PASS to help pay for your current work, school, or health expenses.

PASS plans can help some people become eligible for SSI benefits

Most people who do a PASS are already on SSI. However, some people who aren’t on SSI can also do a PASS, if the PASS plan will help them qualify for SSI.

Here are a couple of examples of how this could work:

  • If you don’t qualify for SSI benefits because of your SSDI benefits, you might be able to put the money you get from SSDI into a PASS. Once you put the SSDI money into the PASS, it will no longer count as income for SSI and you could qualify for SSI benefits.
  • If you don't qualify for SSI benefits because of the resource limit, you may be able to move your savings into a PASS and become eligible.

Applying for a PASS

To set up a PASS, you must:

  • Get SSI benefits or become eligible for SSI benefits as a result of an approved PASS application.
  • Have a source of income other than SSI (for example, SSDI benefits or wages from a job) or have resources over $2,000 that you can use to fund your PASS.
  • Choose a work goal that will help you earn enough money to lower your SSI benefits or get off SSDI benefits altogether.
  • Write a plan that shows how saving a certain amount of money will let you reach your work goal. Social Security’s PASS Cadre can help you write your plan.
  • Be under age 65. If you are 65 or older, you may be able to set up a PASS if you were getting SSI benefits based on disability or blindness in the month before your 65th birthday.

On the PASS application form, you must describe your goals and how you plan to achieve them. This description should be detailed enough to convince Social Security that:

  • You have a clear plan
  • The plan is realistic, and
  • If you complete the plan, your need for SSI benefits will go down or you won't have to get SSDI at all.

If you do not yet have a clear goal or way to achieve it, consider working on one with an organization like the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) or an Employment Network (EN) through the Ticket to Work program.

Help with your application

A PASS Cadre is an expert who can help you with every step of the PASS application process. In northern Ohio, call the Ravenna PASS Cadre at 1-855-863-3565, ext. 33816. In southern Ohio, call the Worthington PASS Cadre at 1-866-789-0957, ext. 216.

Using a PASS

After Social Security approves your plan, they'll send you detailed instructions about how to keep good records and make sure your PASS funds and expenses are separate from your other money. Follow these rules carefully.

If a medical situation or some other issue comes up that impacts your ability to continue your PASS, talk to your PASS Cadre about your options. You may be allowed to put your PASS on hold for up to 12 months without having to re-apply.

What money you can put in your PASS

Once you have an approved PASS plan, you will put money into your PASS account that you can later use to pay for expenses related to your goal.

You cannot put any money you get from SSI into your PASS account. You can use money from:

  • A job
  • A spouse or parent
  • Your SSDI benefits, and
  • Most other sources.

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program helps people with low income have affordable housing. It is funded by the federal government and run by local public housing authorities (PHAs).

A family that gets Section 8 benefits pays 30% of the family income for rent. The Section 8 program pays for the rest of the rent. After a family's income goes up, the amount the family has to contribute to rent also goes up, because 30% of their income is more than it used to be. When the family contributes more for rent, the Section 8 program contributes less. Note: Families that include a person with a disability who works may qualify for the Earned Income Disregard and not have to pay more rent (see below).

Section 8's Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families whose income goes up. When the family income goes up and the Section 8 program starts paying less for rent, the Section 8 program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets it aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

Learn more about the FSS. Find public housing authorities near you.

Example

Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $500 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 program. With Section 8, they pay just $150/month in rent (30% of $500), even though their apartment costs $1,000/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $850/month.

Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $1,000 each month. Now, they have to pay $300/month as rent (30% of $1,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $700/month for the family's apartment, $150 less per month than the program used to pay.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $150 each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $1,800, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.

The Earned Income Disregard (EID)

The Earned Income Disregard (EID) helps people with disabilities who work and get housing benefits such as:

With the Earned Income Disregard, if you get a job, the money you make at your job won’t be counted by your public housing authority (PHA) for the first year after you start working. That means your rent won’t go up. During the second year after you start working, only half of your work income will be counted, so your rent won’t go up as much as it otherwise would. After the second year, your entire income will be counted by the program.

Talk with your public housing authority (PHA) to see if the EID can help you.