Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays cash benefits to eligible, low-income individuals who are 65 or older, or have a disability, or who are blind. SSI is run by the Social Security Administration. There is no requirement to pay into the Social Security retirement system before you can receive SSI benefits, which is different from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). View our Quick Guide on Disability Insurance for more information.
One thing that both SSI and SSDI have in common is a system of support programs to help you get back to a well-paying job when your medical condition no longer keeps you from working. Please see our blog on SSDI Employment Supports for information on the Ticket to Work Program, which is available to both SSDI and SSI recipients.
In this blog, we would like to share a brief overview of SSI specific employment supports that help determine how much your benefit will be when you try to return to work:
Earned Income Exclusion
The first $65 of the earnings you receive in a month, plus one-half of the remaining earnings will not be counted when determining your benefit amount. This means that they count less than one-half of your earned income when they figure your SSI benefit amount.
Section 1619 – Special SSI Payments for People Who Work
You can still be eligible for SSI and Medicaid while working (under section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act) as long as your earnings remain under your state’s threshold amount, you need the Medicaid coverage, and you continue to be eligible for SSI except for your earnings (meaning you still have a disability). After you return to work, your Medicaid coverage can continue, even if your earnings (alone or in combination with your other income) become too high for a SSI cash payment.
Reinstating SSI Benefits without a New Application
If you lose your eligibility for SSI because of your work situation, you may be able to restart your SSI benefits again at any time within 5 years, without a new application. Basically this means if you lose your job or take a pay cut, but are still disabled, your SSI payments will resume immediately.
If you have been ineligible for SSI and/or Medicaid for any reason other than work or medical recovery, you may be able to restart your SSI cash payment and/or Medicaid coverage within 12 months without a new application.
Student Earned Income Exclusion
If you are under the age of 22 and regularly attending school, they don’t count up to $1,780 of your earned income when figuring your SSI benefit.
Property Essential to Self-Support (PESS)
They do not count some resources that are essential to your means of self-support when they decide if you are still eligible for SSI. For example, they don’t count up to $6,000 of the equity value of a non-business rental property, if that property has an annual rate of return of at least 6%.
For more information about the detailed rules surrounding working while receiving SSI benefits, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/redbook.
This can be very confusing information, so for a complete overview of the entire SSI program go to https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-understanding-ssi.htm. You can also call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office for assistance.
Understanding your options can help you get back to work and get back to normal.