It used to be that receiving a significant amount of money or property would likely disqualify you from getting SSI, but not SSDI. But with the introduction of ABLE accounts, for some, having assets doesn't need to affect your eligibility for benefits under either program.
First, the basics: Social Security manages two disability programs with their own rules of eligibility. Most individuals who apply for disability benefits will be evaluated for both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
How your income and assets affect your Social Security benefits depends on which type of disability you're getting.
Your eligibility for SSDI is based on your work activity. If you've worked enough to be insured (based on your age) under SSDI, you'll be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. (But to actually get SSDI, you'll need to prove you're disabled.)
Owning or receiving property or other assets doesn't affect your ability to get Social Security disability benefits, because the SSDI program has no "resource" (asset) limits. Plus, SSDI doesn't limit the amount of unearned income you can have. Unearned income that won't count against you includes income such as:
So if you receive any of these types of income or assets after you apply, your eligibility for SSDI won't be affected.
SSDI does have limits on how much income you can earn from work and still qualify. If you start earning more than $1,470 per month (the "SGA" amount in 2023), you generally won't be considered disabled.
But SSDI also has a trial work program—a limited period of time after you start receiving benefits when you can earn unlimited income without losing benefits. You get nine months (over five years) to "try" returning to work without penalty. Any month that you earn less than the SGA amount doesn't count in your trial period.
The second disability program administered by Social Security is SSI disability. It's a needs-based program designed to help those without much work history, including anyone who:
To qualify for SSI disability benefits, you must meet certain income and resource (asset) limits.
When you apply for SSI, the initial income limit is the same as SSDI: $1,470 per month (in 2023). But once you're approved for SSI benefits, the $1,470 limit no longer applies. Instead, your SSI payment will be reduced if you earn more than $85 per month, and you'll lose your benefits altogether if you make more than around $1,600 per month.
There's another big difference between the income rules for SSDI vs. SSI. If you're getting SSDI, only your earned income counts against you. But SSI counts all your income—both earned and unearned.
The resource limit for the SSI program is currently $2,000 for an individual—meaning if the property you own is worth more than that amount, it can keep you from getting SSI. But some properties and assets don't count against the limit, including:
Most other resources do count toward the SSI asset limit, including the following:
Fortunately, the SSI program now allows up to $100,000 in an ABLE account to be shielded from the resource limit. But you can only get an ABLE account if you became disabled before you turned 26.
And if an ABLE account is set up for you, you can only use the funds placed in this special bank account for qualified disability-related expenses, such as:
Starting in 2026, individuals who were disabled before age 46 (instead of age 26) will be able to get an ABLE account. Learn more about how ABLE accounts work.
When you apply for SSI, Social Security will gather information about your income and assets, including conducting a disability interview. If the value of your property and any money you have (not in an ABLE account), is over the SSI resource limit, your application will be denied.
If your income and property are under the resource limit, your claim will be sent to the next step in the determination process: Disability Determination Services (DDS). DDS will decide if you qualify as disabled under Social Security rules. (If you don't, your application for SSI disability will be denied.)
If DDS approves your claim, it will be sent back to your local Social Security office for an end-line review to see if you still meet SSI's income and resource limits. If you do, you'll get disability. But if the end-line SSI review finds your income or assets are over the limit, your claim will be denied.
You're required to tell Social Security if your financial situation changes after you apply for benefits. Exactly which changes you need to report depends on whether you're getting SSDI or SSI disability benefits. In some cases, an inheritance might affect your disability benefits.
For SSDI: Since SSDI is based on your work record, your unearned income and assets don't matter—that includes cash and property you inherit. If you're collecting SSDI benefits, you need only report the following:
For SSI: Since SSI disability is a need-based program, all income and assets you have can affect your continued eligibility for benefits—including an inheritance. And if that inheritance increases your assets above the limit, you could lose your SSI eligibility (unless the inheritance is put in an ABLE account).
If you're getting SSI disability, you must tell Social Security about any additional income or resources you get. In addition to inheritances, you'll need to make a report to Social Security if any of the following happen:
If you fail to tell Social Security about an inheritance or additional income, it could mean you have to pay back overpayments. And you could also be charged with penalties and fraud.
Social Security treats most rental income as unearned income. So, most of the time, how rental income affects your Social Security disability will depend on whether you're getting SSDI or SSI benefits.
It would be difficult to qualify for SSI if you're making rental income. With SSI, any income—including rental income—counts toward the monthly income limit. If you get more than $20 a month in unearned income, your SSI benefit will be reduced.
And even if the income you got from a rental was low enough for you to keep your benefits (lower than about $900 a month), you'd still own the land, building, or unit you're renting out. Any property you own that's worth more than $2,000 would put you over the SSI resource/asset limit.
With SSDI, the question isn't how much rental income you get, but rather how much work you're doing to get that income. Because SSDI has no asset limits, you can generally own as many rental properties as you like without it affecting your disability benefits.
And you can usually collect rent from those properties as "unearned" income. But if you're putting in a lot of work to get that rental income, it might not qualify as unearned. Social Security will likely consider your rental income "earned" income if:
Since the home you live in isn't counted as an asset for SSI purposes, you might assume that taking in a tenant won't affect your SSI benefits. But that's not necessarily true.
If you own your home and you rent out a room, the rent you collect would be unearned income. That's generally fine if you're receiving SSDI, but not if you're getting SSI disability benefits. Remember, even unearned income counts against the income limits for SSI. Any rent you collect over $20 per month would reduce your SSI benefit by the amount of the rent.
When you're relying on Social Security disability benefits—whether you get SSDI or SSI disability—it's important to understand how your income and resources affect your eligibility. Remember, you must report financial changes to Social Security. Failing to do so can cost you your disability benefits.
If you expect to inherit cash or property, or you expect your income to increase, you'll likely benefit from speaking with an experienced disability attorney. A lawyer can help you determine what you can do to protect your benefits.
And if Social Security has denied or revoked your disability benefits because of income or asset issues, hiring an attorney for your appeal can improve your chances of winning your claim.
Updated January 23, 2023