The purpose of Supplemental Security Income is to help people who have low incomes and limited resources as well as serious, long-term disabilities. This means that if your family income increases while you are receiving SSI, you may become ineligible for assistance or the amount of your benefits may decrease.
SSI divides your family income into four categories: earned, unearned, in-kind and deemed. Each type has a different impact on your benefits. Earned income primarily includes wages from a job, net earnings from your own business and sheltered workshop payments. Unearned income comes from sources other than employment, like interest, pensions, cash from relatives or unemployment benefits. In-kind income is food or housing donated to you at no or minimal charge. Deemed income is the part of your family income that comes from a spouse or parent who lives with you.
Impact on Benefits
When calculating SSI eligibility and/or the amount of your benefits, officials look at the total gross income of your household. If all of your income is earned, the maximum you are allowed in 2011 is $1,433 for an individual or $2,107 for a couple. For unearned income, the 2011 maximums are $694 for an individual or $1,031 for a couple. But most types of in-kind income, like donations you get from a food pantry, are not counted against your limit. Part of your deemed income may be counted under certain circumstances.
In addition to most in-kind income, there are other standard exclusions from the total amount of family income used to determine your SSI eligibility and benefits. These include:
The first $20 of most monthly income;
The first $65 of earnings and half of additional monthly earnings;
The value of food stamps, home energy subsidies and certain other types of public assistance;
Grants or scholarships for education and training;
Loans you are expected to repay;
and the value of expenses you incur in order to work, like a car service or health aide.
Right to Appeal
The SSI calculation process is complex. When officials decide on your eligibility and benefits, they must provide their determination in writing to help you understand it. If you disagree with how they categorized or calculated portions of your income, or with any other part of the decision, you have a right to challenge it. In general, you must provide 60 days' notice of your intent to appeal. You may file an appeal on your own or through any knowledgeable advocate of your choice.
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