How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

Art: Robin Mead

SSI Regulations can be confusing and difficult to find and understand!

Sometimes people break the rules because they don’t know what the rules are.

Sometimes people get their check lowered and have no idea why or what happened.

Sometimes people are told they owe Social Security money back, even though they reported everything they were supposed to.

Luckily, none of these things will happen to you!



Surviving on SSI 

SSI Resource Rules

Special rules about stuff you own and money in the bank:

SSI Income Rules

Special rules about stuff you get or money you are given:

Feeling Confused?

What To Do About Nice People Who Want to Give You Stuff

What To Do With Money 

Living Arrangements

How you live and who you live with can affect your SSI check.

How Much Rent or Mortgage to Pay

How much rent or mortgage you pay can affect your SSI check

SSI Ups & Downs

Things that can make your check stop or start or go up or go down.


Your SSI may be affected by your parent’s finances (if you are under age 18) or by your spouses finances (if you live with your spouse). This is called deeming. There are a few exceptions: How to Avoid Deeming

Adult Child Benefits

If you first became disabled before the age of 22 (no matter what age you are now) you may be able to go off SSI and instead get Adult Disabled Child Benefits. This is good! You want this.


Debt collectors cannot garnish your SSI check for any reason under any circumstances. But they can annoy you and they can try to freeze your bank account. Luckily, there are some laws that protect you: Debt & Disability

SSI Interviews

You will be contacted for this when you first apply and/or right after you are approved and/or every few years while you are on SSI (except in some states where it happens a lot less often). How to Handle an SSI Interview (PERC)

While Applying

Working and SSI




If You Have Questions

SSI financial regs are complex, and the people who answer the phones at Social Security often give out wrong information in this area. We have heard from many readers who wound up in a wide variety of bad situations this way.

If you would like to research the policies yourself, they are all available here: Program Operation Manual. The search feature does not work, but you can search this manual here: Working Search Feature. Much easier to read and understand, but not as detailed and leaves some things out: Spotlights on SSI.

If you are currently on SSI, you can also call the local Social Security office and ask for the name and contact info of the worker assigned to your SSI case. This person will be trained in SSI policy and is more likely to know the correct answer. If you feel a specific rule is not being followed correctly, you can request to speak to a “Technical Expert.” If you call the main number, whatever you do, never ask questions to the person who answers the phone.

Here’s a list of people and places you may be able to contact for help if you are having a problem with Social Security or if you cannot get your questions answered. Contacting your Congressperson’s office can be especially helpful.

Children on SSI

Most of the above links also apply to children. In addition:

10 thoughts on “How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI”

  1. Friend of mine on SSI about 7 years ago sold home, 80K in capital gains, did not realize she should have reported it. Now she wants to. Does she need legal counsel?


        1. Ok, well the first thing would be to confirm if she is on SSI or SSDI. For SSDI there would be no problem.

          For SSI, if the money is gone, she would be eligible for SSI right now.

          However, during any months she still had the money, she might owe money back for those months. Sorry I know this is not great news.

          There is some info on how to deal with overpayment issues here:


  2. This is very informative and I really appreciate the info. I’m hoping to see the inheritance info soon as I am expecting very shortly. I am greatful!


    1. Hi Kaia,

      The most important thing to know about an inheritance is to ask your family to set up a Special Needs Trust. This can be done through a lawyer that specializes in Medicaid estate planning. If you are to receive any money, it can go directly into the trust and will not affect your SSI.

      For a house, you are allowed to inherit it if you live in it, and you only own one house.

      Hope this helps.


    2. You also may want to check into the ABLE Act which is new legislation started in 2015 that if u were diabled at a certain age you can put money aside for disability related expenses and still keep SSI Medicaid food stamps. There is a lifetime cap of. $300,000 but only can put in$14000per year. Check out everything by googling Able resource center which is the main page for info from govt program.
      There’s lots of videos to understand it.
      It may or may not sute your needs


  3. The new federal ABLE ACT allows savings of around $300,000 with yearly caps of $14,000 in state ABLE accounts for those disabled prior to age 26 and the age has just gone up, so check in on that. Also you don’t have to be determined disabled by federal govt social security disability, you just need a doctors note
    I know this doesn’t seem possible given that the cap has been at $2000 but new program now to help people save when on SSI.
    THe only state that so far as of July 2017 doesn’t have high rates for joining and bank fees is Tennessee. You don’t have to be from Tennesse to join. Those on federal means based programs, like ssi, section 8, food stamps etc, can choose whichever state they’d like to join.
    See this website for the federal program
    Why is there a 14,000 savings allowance per year and so many bank fees when those on ssi, food stamps, etc that the program is meant for only get $753 per month.
    This program I think was the initiative of parents of children with autism who wanted to get help with these means based programs and still allow their child their money.
    The ABLE Act was passed in a bi-partisan effort (both dems and republicans)

    Liked by 1 person

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