Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Authored By: Colorado Legal Services


What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides benefits to people who have limited income and resources and who are 65 or older, blind, or have a disability.

In 2018, the SSI benefit amount for someone with no other source of income is $750.00 per month, for a couple the SSI benefit amount is $1,125. Recipients of SSI are categorically eligible for Medicaid.

Unlike general Social Security benefits, SSI is influenced by other income and resources.

What are the income rules?

Applicants who meet the other conditions of eligibility are entitled to a monthly SSI benefit equal to the difference between the current standard of need and their countable income. The definition of countable income treats unearned income, such as Social Security or pension benefits and earned income, such as wages, differently.

1. Earned Income

Earned income may be cash or in-kind, and includes the following types of payments:
a. Wages
b. Net earnings from self-employment
c. Tax refunds
d. Payment of services performed in shelter workshops
e. Royalties and honoraria

f. Refunds of federal income taxes


2. Unearned Income

Unearned income is all income that is not earned, including the following:
a. Annuities, pensions and other periodic payments
b. Maintenance and support payments
c. Dividends, interest and royalties
d. Rents
e. Death benefits
f. Prizes and awards
g. Gifts and inheritance
h. In-kind support and maintenance

3.In-kind Support and Maintenance

In-kind support and maintenance consists of any food or shelter that is given to an individual or that someone else pays for on behalf of the individual. In-kind income can be earned or unearned.

What are the resources/rules?

Resources are considered either "countable" or "exempt" for purposes of calculating benefits amounts. The general resource limit for an individual is $2,000 in countable resources; the general resource limit for a couple is $3,000 in countable resources. Note that giving away resources usually creates a penalty period during which the donor is ineligible for SSI.

Countable unearned income is determined by deducting a $20 "disregard" from the applicant's unearned income. Countable earned income is determined by: (1) deducting any unused portion of the $20 unearned income disregard from the earned income; (2) deducting another $65 from earned income; and (3) dividing the results by two.

1. Countable resources

Countable resources include both liquid and non-liquid resources. Liquid resources include cash, and all property which can be converted to cash within 20 days, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, promissory notes, life insurance policies, bank accounts and certificates of deposit. Examples of non-liquid resources include household goods, loan agreements, automobiles, buildings and land. Non-liquid resources are generally evaluated according to their equity value; i.e. What they can be expected to sell for less an encumbrances.

2. Exempt resources

Exempt resources do not count against an individual for purposes of determining SSI eligibility. Examples of exempt resources include:
a. Residential home
b. Household goods and personal effects
c. Equipment required because of a disability, e.g. a wheelchair
d. One automobile
e. Life insurance, within certain limits.

This communication is made available by Colorado Legal Services, Inc., (CLS), as a public service and is issued to inform not to advise. No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney. The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not those of CLS or its funding sources.

Last Review and Update: Feb 13, 2018