Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based program for people with low income and low assets. Unlike SSI, Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI, is a benefit that people qualify for as a result of contributions paid into the Social Security system. The SSDI program has no asset limits. (Learn more about SSDI eligibility.)
To be eligible to receive SSI benefits based on disability, an SSI applicant or a current SSI recipient who is single cannot have more than $2,000 in assets. (Though not all assets count toward the SSI resource limit, discussed below.)
If an SSI applicant or recipient is married (even if only one person is eligible for disability), the asset limit is $3,000. Only the IRA or pension plan of the ineligible spouse isn't treated as part of the spouses' assets.
Similarly, if a child under age 18 lives with one parent, the SSA deems the resources of a parent or parent’s spouse. The SSA will ignore the first $2,000 of the parent's total countable resources, or, if the child lives with two parents, $3,000. Any assets above that amount will be counted toward the child's $2,000 resource limit.
How does the SSA define assets? Actually, the SSA calls assets "resources." The SSA counts the following as resources:
Your home. To be excluded from the SSA's asset limit, your house must be your principal residence. The exclusion includes your home, the land it's built on, and any adjacent buildings.
Your car. You may have one car excluded from the asset limit if you need it for transportation; otherwise, the value of a car will be excluded from the limit up to $4,500 (that is, any value in the car over $4,500 counts as an asset).
Wedding rings. A wedding ring and engagement ring (of any value) will be excluded from the resource limit.
PASS savings. Income set aside for an SSI “plan for achieving self-support” (PASS) is not counted.
IDA savings. Money saved in an individual development account.
Burial savings. Burial funds up to $1,500 in value, plus burial plots for your immediate family, are not counted.
Support payments. Some support payments can be held for up to nine months before they count toward your resource limit (without this exception, they would count as cash or money in the bank that could put you over the resource limit). They include:
SSI claimants who exceed the $2,000 limit ($3,000 if married) are ineligible for benefits. And, in fact, claimants who are over the resource limit will not even have their disability claim fully evaluated to see if they are medically eligible for disability benefits. They will get a "technical denial" of benefits.
Learn more about the financial eligibility requirements for SSI disability.