Bridges Blog Financial Resources Independent Living Resources Information Resources Series: Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series, March 2021

Income Limits for SSI Eligibility

The fifth in a five-part series: Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series.

This month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explore the potential impact of Social Security benefits on young blind/low vision adults. In this second installment of the series, we explore income and resource limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.

What do income and resources have to do with SSI?

“SSI helps disabled people who have little or no income by providing a monthly cash payment.” as noted in last week’s Transition Tip. For this reason, SSI eligibility is not just based on disability. An individual’s income and resources must meet certain guidelines in order for that individual to qualify for SSI. If these requirements are not met, the individual’s eligibility for SSI payments may be restricted for a short period of time or completely.

Whose income and resources count?

SSI for a child

If the person with a qualifying SSI disability is younger than 18, a portion of the income of parents and step-parents with whom the lives are usually counted (“deemed”) in determining the child’s eligibility. Some benefit payments are not included as income. For specific questions, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

SSI for an adult

One month after an individual turns 18 years old, the individual is considered an adult for SSI purposes, and their parents’ income is no longer counted. Only the adult’s income is counted.

Please note: if a parent claims an adult child is a dependent on their taxes, this can negatively impact the adult child’s SSI benefits. It is important to get expert advice based on your personal situation.


What counts as income?

SSI considers four types of income:

  • Earned income, including wages, self-employment income, cash paid for work (like babysitting or lawn mowing), etc.
  • Unearned income, including cash gifts, other Social Security benefits, interest and dividends from investments, etc.
  • In-kind income, such as food or shelter provided for free or at less than market value
    • Includes cases where you live with someone (even your parent) for free.
    • If you are not paying rent or for food where you live, your monthly SSI payment will be cut by one-third.
    • The maximum SSI monthly benefit in 2021 is $794. A one-third reduction lowers that payment to $529.33—a reduction of 264.67 each month.
  • Deemed income, usually the income of a spouse, if you have one.

To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Exclusions from unearned and earned income

General exclusion

  • The first $20 in ANY KIND of income per month is excluded from income.
  • This exclusion only counts once per month, even if you have two or more kinds of income.

Unearned income

  • Every dollar of unearned income over the general exclusion ($20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by one dollar.
  • Examples:
    • If you receive a gift of $20, your payment will not change.
    • If you receive a $150 gift in one month, that monthly payment will be reduced by $130.

Earned Income

  • In addition to the general exclusion ($20), the first $65 in earned income each month is excluded from income.
  • Every TWO dollars of earned income over the total exclusion ($65 + $20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by one dollar.
  • Example: You earn $175 and do not have unearned income
    • Your monthly exclusion is $85, so your earned income after exclusions is $90 ($175-$85). SSI counts half of that income: $45 ($90/2).
    • Your monthly SSI payment would decrease by $45 in a month when you earn $175.

Other earned income exclusions and deductions

  • Economic impact payments (EIP), as known as COVID stimulus payments
  • Exclusions of all work-related expenses for blind individuals
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (available until you reach age 22)
  • Exclusions and benefits related to an approved PASS plan (plan to achieve self-support)
  • Impairment-related work expense (IRWE) deduction
  • Other miscellaneous exclusions

To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk (contact information below) for more information.

Keep in mind

Cash gifts can disqualify you for SSI for the month you receive them.

  • Even gifts for birthdays, graduation, and other holidays count as income for SSI for the month in which you receive them.
  • You have the duty to report these gifts to SSI.

Next week, we will examine resources and how they can impact SSI eligibility with the “Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility” Tuesday Transition Tip from the Free Bridges Helpdesk. Note, SSI eligibility requires meeting disability, income, and resource requirements.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Social Security for Young Blind Adults Series

Part 1: Disability Eligibility for SSI (March 2)

Part 2: Income Limits for SSI Eligibility (March 9)

Part 3: Limitations on Resources for SSI Eligibility (March 16)

Part 4: More Than Just Money: Additional Benefits of Getting SSI (March 23)

Part 5: How to Apply for SSI and What to Expect (March 30)

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