Bridges Resource Library Social Security Information and Resources

Income Limits for SSI Eligibility

Updated as of May 18, 2024.

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. 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 and resources 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 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 and resources are no longer counted. Only income and resources in the adult’s name that can be controlled by the adult are 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 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 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.

Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information

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.

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