What Is a Resource? What Is Countable? Your Questions about SSI Eligibility Answered

What Is a Resource? What Is Countable? Your Questions about SSI Eligibility Answered

Evaluating your countable resources is key to determining your SSI eligibility. Making this evaluation, however, can be complicated and confusing. Start by determining which items owned by you or owned by the planned SSI recipient are “resources”.

A “resource” for purposes of SSI eligibility is cash money, or some item that you can turn into cash money. Bank accounts, some life insurance, stocks, bonds, and property are all resources. After you have determined which resources you own, including deemed resources, figure out which resources are countable toward the SSI limit. Many items that are resources actually do not count toward the resource limit: one vehicle used as transportation, the house you live in, household goods, personal items, low-face-value life insurance policies, burial funds and plots, property used in a business, and any money set aside under the PASS program (to be addressed in a future article). A number of other resources also do not count.

Another type of resource is called a “deemed resource”. The SSA deems part of a parent, spouse, or stepparent’s resources as belonging to a person with special needs applying for or receiving SSI benefits before the child turns 18. Minor children who live with their parents can exclude either $2,000 (living with one parent) or $3,000 (living with two parents) from the deemed resources of those parents. Parents must assess their own resources, and anything above the $2,000-$3,000 limit (see below) counts toward their minor children’s resources as well.  After age 18 only the individual’s resources count toward the $2,000 asset limit; however the SSA will “look back” to see if there was any time when there was more than $2,000 in the child’s name in the last year years.

Once you have determined all of your countable resources, including deemed resources, check if you meet SSI eligibility requirements. “To get SSI, your countable resources must not be worth more than $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a couple.” You may sell items that put you over the resource limit, and you may receive SSI while you sell them (known as conditional benefits), but after you sell the resource you will have to pay back those benefits. Also, if you sell a resource for less than it is worth or give it away, you may become ineligible for SSI benefits for up to 3 years.

Figuring out which countable resources you have can be complicated depending on your situation. Small mistakes in determining resources could have a big effect on eligibility, so consult an attorney or ask the Social Security Administration for assistance when applying for benefits. 

Please also note that the resource test is only one part of the eligibility requirements for SSI benefits, the other major hurdle is the disability test, which assesses whether the individual has the ability to perform Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) or, in today’s dollars, the ability to earn $1,180 per month. 

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at email@rubinlaw.com or call 866-TO-RUBIN.