How Much Can I Have in Assets and Still Be Eligible for SSI Disability Benefits?

The SSI program limits how much you can have in assets (property) and still be eligible for disability benefits, but many types of assets don't count toward the limit.

Reviewed by , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

How much property you can own on disability depends whether you receive SSI or SSDI. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a need-based program for people who have disabilities and low income and low assets. In contrast, Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI, has no asset limits, but does have work history requirements. (Individuals who qualify for SSDI are able to do so because the taxes they've paid have allowed them to become "insured" for SSDI benefits. Learn more about SSDI eligibility.)

What Is the SSI Asset Limit?

To be eligible to receive SSI benefits based on disability, an SSI applicant who is single can't have more than $2,000 in assets. (But not all assets count toward the SSI resource limit, as 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. All of a spouse's assets count toward the limit except for the spouse's IRA or pension plan. (20 C.F.R. §416.1202.)

If a child under 18 is the SSI applicant or recipient, the parent's assets will count toward the asset limit if the child lives with a parent. Social Security will also count the assets of a parent's spouse. The SSA will ignore the first $2,000 of a 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.

These limits haven't changed in over two decades, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) may update them at some point soon.

What Assets Count Toward the SSI Asset Limit?

How does the SSA define assets? The SSA actually labels assets that are available to help you as "resources"—money or something you own that you could turn into cash. The following items count as resources for the SSI program:

  • cash in hand
  • money in a checking or savings account
  • cash surrender value (CSV) in a life insurance policy (for policies with a face value over $1,500)
  • stocks and bonds
  • cars and trucks (except for one that you use for transportation), and
  • real estate (other than the home in which you live).

Learn more about how the SSA can monitor the money you have in a checking or savings account.

What Resources Don't Count Toward the SSI Resource Limit?

Your home. Even if you own your home outright, the SSA won't count it as an asset for the SSI program. To be excluded from (not counted toward) 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, up to any value.

Your car. The SSA will exclude one car or truck from the asset limit if you need it for transportation. The car can be of any value, and can be brand new; there is no car value limit. But because of the low asset limit, you can't own two cars while you're on SSI.

Personal jewelry. A wedding ring and engagement ring (of any value), as well as any other jewelry you wear, will be excluded from the SSI resource limit.

Artwork. Works of art that you hang in your house won't count toward the limit as long as you are using them for enjoyment and you don't own them for their value or as an investment.

ABLE accounts. The SSA will exclude the money in an ABLE account (up to $100,000) for SSI purposes. ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts are special accounts for those disabled before the age of 26, and they don't count as assets for the purpose of SSI eligibility.

PASS savings. Income that an SSI recipient sets aside for an SSI "plan for achieving self-support" (PASS) is not counted. For instance, you could save $10,000 to attend a school or training program.

IDA savings. The SSA doesn't count money saved in an "individual development account" (IDA) for SSI eligibility purposes. IDAs are special accounts designed to allow those receiving TANF funds to save specifically for school, the purchase of a home, or to start a business. (TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.) The money used to fund the account comes from money you make from working. In addition, some states' TANF programs match the savings you put into the account.

Burial savings. The SSA will not count the value of burial plots for your immediate family and burial funds up to $1,500 each for you and your spouse, if they're kept separately from other money. The SSA also won't count funds in an irrevocable burial trust or for an irrevocable burial contract in any amount. (20 C.F.R. §416.1231.)

Support payments. You can save some government support payments for up to nine months before they count toward your SSI resource limit (without this exception, they would immediately count as cash or money in the bank that could put you over the resource limit). They include:

  • earned income tax credit payments
  • child tax credit payments
  • state or local relocation assistance payments
  • crime victim's assistance, and
  • grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses.

In addition, some types of disaster assistance, including pandemic stimulus payments, are treated as exempt resources indefinitely. (Emergency message EM-20014.)

What Happens If I'm Over the SSI Resource Limit?

SSI applicants whose assets exceed the $2,000 limit ($3,000 if married) are ineligible for benefits. In fact, the SSA won't evaluate the claims of applicants who are over the resource limit to see if they are medically eligible for disability benefits. These applicants will get a "technical denial" of benefits.

You can sell some assets to qualify for SSI, but you have to be careful not to violate SSI's rules for transferring assets.

Current SSI recipients who receive money or property that puts them over the resource limit are in danger of losing their benefits. If you receive benefits for any months in which you had too many assets, and the SSA finds out, the agency will send you a letter regarding the overpayments it paid you and will start taking money out of your monthly check. Read our article about overpayments for more information.

Learn more about all of the financial eligibility requirements for SSI disability.

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