Will the Income of a Spouse Affect My Disability Benefits?

A husband or wife's income can affect SSI disability benefits, but not Social Security disability benefits.

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Your spouse's income might affect your disability benefits, depending on what program pays you benefits. Your husband or wife's income only matters for SSI (the low income, need-based disability program), since the SSDI program (the disability program for those who paid FICA taxes over many years) has no income limits.

If you're married and your husband or wife makes an income, the SSI program might "deem" part of your spouse's income to be available to you. We'll explain what deeming is below. But the gist is that, if your spouse has a sizeable income, it's likely to lower your SSI payment, or even make you ineligible for SSI.

Who Is Considered a Spouse?

If you're legally married to your partner and are living together, Social Security considers you married for the purpose of deeming income. And now that same-sex marriage is legal in all states, Social Security will deem income between any two people who are married. In addition, if you live with a boyfriend or girlfriend and you hold yourselves out in the community to be married, Social Security will deem your boyfriend or girlfriend's income to you. Social Security will also deem income between those in some types of non-marital relationships, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions.

When Is a Spouse's Income Deemed to You?

Your spouse can make a small amount of income and not have it deemed to you. The amount depends on whether you have children.

In 2022, if you and your spouse have no children and your spouse makes more than $420 per month, your spouse's income is subject to deeming. If you have one child, your spouse's income is subject to deeming if your spouse makes more than $840 per month. If you have two children, your spouse's income is subject to deeming if your spouse makes more than $1,260 per month. (And so on, adding $420 for each child.)

If you think in terms of annual income, your spouse's income is subject to deeming if you have no children and your spouse makes more than $5,040 annually. If you have one child, your spouse's income is subject to deeming if your spouse makes more than $10,080 per year. (And so on, adding $5,040 for each child.) So if you have three children, your spouse can make $20,000 per year, and it won't affect your SSI benefits at all.

Number of Children Monthly Threshold for Deeming Spouse's Income Annual Threshold for Deeming Spouse's Income
0 $420 per month $5,040 per year
1 $840 per month $10,080 per year
2 $1,260 per month $15,120 per year
3 $1,680 per month $20,160 per year
4 $2,100 per month $25,200 per year
5 $2,520 per month $30,240 per year
6 $2,940 per month $35,280 per year

How Much of a Spouse's Income Is Deemed?

The Social Security Administration has a complicated formula for deeming a spouse's income. To estimate how much of your husband or wife's income will be deemed to you, you can follow these guidelines.

First, deduct living expenses of $420 for each child from your spouse's income.

Then add your spouse's income to any income you have. Do not include income from a spouse's IRA or company pension.

Then, because Social Security doesn't count all of your income for SSI, you're allowed to take certain deductions to give you your countable income, just as you would if you weren't married. For earned income (income from work), you are allowed to subtract $85 and then cut the remainder in half to come up with your countable earned income. You then add that to the unearned income you and your spouse have.

What's left after you've made these deductions is the spousal income that is deemed to you. You then subtract this amount from the SSI income limit for a couple (as if you were both disabled), not for an individual. The income limit (and monthly SSI benefit rate) for a couple is $1,261 in 2022.

What remains, if anything, will be your monthly benefit. If the remainder is zero or less, you aren't eligible for SSI.

If the remainder is more than the maximum federal SSI rate for an individual, $841, then you will receive only $841. (Note that these calculations would change if your state adds a state supplement to the SSI payment.)

Examples of Spousal Income Deeming

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of whether your husband or wife's income might make you ineligible for SSI.

Spouse's salary $15,600 per year, no children

Your husband makes $1,300 per month by working and has no other income, and you have no other income and no children. Your spouse's income will be deemed to you since your spouse makes more than $420 per month.

About $607 per month of your husband's income will be deemed to you (($1,300-$85)/2). Subtracting that amount from the couple's SSI rate of $1,261, you would only get about $654 per month ($1,261-$607), somewhat less than the federal maximum benefit of $841.

Spouse's salary $15,600 per year, two children

Your husband makes $1,300 per month through work, and you have two minor children living with you. Your spouse's income will be deemed to you since your spouse makes more than $1,260 per month.

You don't have any income of your own. Only $187.50 of your husband's income will be deemed to you (($1,300-$420-$420-$85)/2). Subtracting this amount from a couple's maximum SSI payment of $1,261 would give you about $1,073.50 in SSI, in theory. However, you can't get more than the $841 federal maximum for SSI (unless there is a state supplement), so your monthly payment would be $841. You can see here that because of your children, your husband's income isn't actually deemed to you at all.

Spouse's salary $36,000 per year, no children

Say your wife makes $3,000 per month at her job and has no other income, and you have no other income and no children. Your spouse's income will be deemed to you since your spouse makes more than $420 per month.

You have been approved for SSI. Only $1,457.50 per month of your wife's income will be deemed to you (($3,000-$85)/2). Subtracting that amount from the couple's SSI rate of $1,261 would leave you with nothing. You would not be eligible for SSI because of your wife's income.

Spouse's salary $30,000 per year, two children

Your wife makes $2,500 per month at her job and has no other income. Your spouse's income will be deemed to you since your spouse makes more than $1,260 per month.

You have no other income but you have two children (without an income of their own). Only $787.50 of your wife's income will be deemed to you (($2,500-$420-$420-$85)/2). Subtracting this amount from the couple's maximum SSI payment of $1,261 would give you $473.50 in SSI benefits.

Note that these are rough calculations for the purpose of illustration; the SSA's formula can get a bit more complicated, particularly if you also have earned income or you or your spouse also has unearned income, or if you have any impairment-related work expenses. In addition, the calculations change in states that add on a supplementary payment to SSI. For more information, see our article on the state supplementary payment for SSI.

Updated February 14, 2022

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