Although Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are subject to rigid asset limits, the federal government has provided a few avenues for beneficiaries to earn income that supplements their SSI benefit.
The Social Security Act imposes a $2,000 asset limit on SSI beneficiaries, a figure that has remained frozen since 1989. For couples, the limit is $3,000. For 2018, the maximum monthly SSI benefit is $750, although many states provide a further supplement.
However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not necessarily reduce the SSI benefit based on additional income. For each dollar earned above the monthly maximum amount, the SSA reduces the person’s monthly benefit by $0.50. However, the SSA excludes a person’s first $85 in monthly earned income. Furthermore, SSI beneficiaries under age 22 or enrolled in school or a vocational training program can earn up to $1,790 in monthly income (up to $7,200 annually) without jeopardizing their SSI benefit or eligibility.
For other SSI beneficiaries looking to enter the workforce or return to work, the Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) program may be an option for covering costs associated with job training or starting a business. Candidates for the program must submit applications to the SSA that detail their work goals, specify requested items and services, and provide cost estimates, among other requirements.
If the SSA terminates a person’s benefits due to excessive earnings, an expedited recertification option exists for people who reapply within five years.
Another option for SSI recipients is the Ticket to Work program. The purpose of this program, which is available to both SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients, is to provide a trial work period for beneficiaries without losing benefits.
Under this program, SSI beneficiaries can make more than $840 a month for nine months before their benefits are cut off. The nine months can either be consecutive or spread over a five-year period. Assuming earnings continue after the trial period, benefits are cut off. But if a person’s earnings fall below this amount during the three years succeeding the trial period, benefits can be immediately restored.