Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: Financial February 2022

Financial February: What Are the Income Requirements for SSI?

A key part of the transition process is knowing about financial benefits for which blind and low vision students are eligible. Join us for Financial February for a crash course on SSI benefits.

  • February 1: What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?
  • February 8: What Are the Income Requirements for SSI?
  • February 15: How Do Resources Affect SSI?
  • February 22: How Can I Apply for SSI?

In this second installment of our Financial February series, we discuss income, part of the second prong of SSI eligibility.


In last week’s installment of our SSI series, What is SSI, and Who is Eligible for It?, we noted that SSI is a financial safety net for adults younger than 65 who have significant disabilities and who have limited income and limited financial resources.

In today’s post, we focus on what limited income means for SSI eligibility. Next week, we will cover limited resources in terms of SSI eligibility.

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 child lives are usually counted in determining the child’s eligibility. Some benefit payments are not included as income. For specific questions, please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for more information or to inquire about specifics.

SSI for an Adult

Often, a child under 18 will have a qualifying disability but will not qualify for SSI because their parent’s income and/or resources are too high for SSI eligibility. However, one month after the child turns 18, eligibility focuses only on the individual’s own income and resources. Thus, even if a young disabled adult lives with parents or family members, only the disabled adult’s income and resources are considered for SSI eligibility purposes.

For this reason, applying for SSI is often a large part of the transition process to adulthood for blind and low vision young adults.

Important notes:

These rules are different for the spouse of an SSI applicant/recipient, whose income and resources may be counted in SSI eligibility.

Also, if a parent claims an adult child as a dependent on their taxes, this can negatively impact the adult child’s SSI benefits.

It is important to get advice based on your personal situation.

Please contact the Free Maryland Bridges Helpdesk with questions about this or any other matter.

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.
  • Deemed income, usually the income of a spouse, if you have one.


Income Exclusions

There are certain income exclusions that SSI does not count in your calculation of income. This list provides some examples of income exclusions for SSI purposes. Please always feel free to consult the Free Bridges Helpdesk to assist you along the way:

  • 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.
  • Every dollar of unearned income over the general exclusion ($20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by $1
  • In addition to the general exclusion ($20), the first $65 in earned income each month is excluded from income. Every $2 of earned income over the total exclusion ($65 + $20) reduces your monthly SSI payment by $1.
  • Economic impact payments (EIP), also known as COVID stimulus payments
  • Impairment-related work expense (IRWE) deduction
  • Work-related expenses for blind individuals (in addition to the IRWE)
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (available until you reach age 22)
  • Exclusions and benefits related to an approved PASS plan (plan to achieve self-support)
  • Other miscellaneous exclusions

Keep in Mind

This information can seem very technical at first glance, and the Bridges Helpdesk is always here to support you as you figure out your initial and continuing eligibility for benefits.

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.

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