Building Your Assets and Wealth

Other Asset-Building Programs

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 (except Toledo), call the Akron PASS Cadre at 1-877-696-9399, ext. 14303. In Central and Southern Ohio, contact the Columbus, IN Cadre at 1-866-755-0990, ext. 24909. In Toledo, call the Pontiac, MI Cadre at 866-318-1858, ext. 28449.

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 Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families who get help with their rent from programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It helps families whose income goes up because of work. When the family income goes up and the program starts paying less for rent, the FSS program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets that money aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

The FSS program can help people who get help from programs like:

Check with your public housing authority (PHA) or with the administrator of your housing program to see if the FSS can help you. Learn more about the FSS program.

Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $2,000 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. With the voucher, they pay about $600/month in rent (30% of $2,000), even though their apartment costs $1,800/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $1,200/month.

Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $3,000 each month. Because her earnings went up, after their annual reexamination they have to pay about $900/month as rent (30% of $3,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $900/month for the family's apartment. This means that Section 8 is paying $300 less per month than it used to pay and Clyde and Bertha are paying $300 more.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $300 extra that they are paying each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $3,600, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.

Learn more