How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

Artwork: 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!

Here’s everything you need to know:

Pause for Station Identification

Before reading this page, please double check and make sure you know which program you are on. Many people get this wrong and wind up following the wrong rules. This page is only for SSI. Some of these rules also apply to Medicaid. Nothing here applies to SSDI or Medicare. How to Tell What You’re On


How to Survive on SSI – Important Survival Information. Please read.

“How I Get By On SSI” – Stories and tips from readers

SSI Resource Rules

If you are on SSI, you can have up to $2,000 in resources ($3,000 if married). Your resources must be below this number by the last day of each month. But wait! There’s a catch. Some things count as resources, and some don’t.

How Much is the SSI Resource Limit?

How Do Resources Affect My SSI?

What Counts as a Resource for SSI?

Safe Ways to Save or Spend Money

How to Handle If You Are Over the SSI Resource Limit

SSI Income Rules

Be prepared to get confused. Resources and income are different things!!! This is why so many people tell you that you can earn $2,000 on SSI and then get confused when it turns out not to be true. Learning the resource rules ain’t enough. You gotta learn the income rules too:

How Does Income Affect My SSI Check?

How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

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

I’m On SSI. Can Someone Else Pay My Bills?

I’m on SSI. Can someone give me a gift?

I’m on SSI. Can I Start an Online Fundraiser?

Living Arrangements

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

SSI Rent & Mortgage Regs

SSI Living Arrangement Regs

SSI Food Regs

Marriage, Divorce, Widows, Children, Relationships

How Does My Love Life Affect My Disability Check?

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.

SSI Ups & Downs

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

Ten Common Reasons SSI Might Be Low

Ten Common Reasons SSI Might be Denied or Stopped

How to Make SSI Go Up or Down

How to Report and Change an SSI Check

Safe Ways to Save or Spend Money While on SSI

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

How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand

Working and SSI

How Does Working Affect My SSI Check?


What Changes Do I Need to Report to Social Security?


How To Respond When Social Security Tells You That You Owe Money Back

How Sandra Got Her Overpayments Waived


Special Needs Trust – Please plan ahead

If You Have Questions, Don’t Call Social Security

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.

Your local office should also have one or more staff people who are trained in SSI financial regulations. If you can find out who that person is, you may be able to request an appointment. It’s still good to double check the written policies whenever possible.

Children on SSI

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

Overview of SSI and Family Income Chart

Formula for How Parent’s Income Affect Child’s Check – Warning: Incredibly complicated. Do not read this link unless you are really hardcore.

SSI Rent & Mortgage Regs – Many parents do not know these regs, and it often causes problems.

How Much is the SSI Resource Limit? – Same link as above. We are repeating this because everyone gets it wrong when it comes to kids.

Protecting SSI from Child Support

Child Support and SSI

“I’m Happy My Check Didn’t Change”

Don’t be happy. If your finances or living situation changes, but your check doesn’t change, this is not necessarily a good thing. Social Security can take months or years to make a change, and by that time they may say you owe them thousands of dollars! If there is a change in your life, it is best to notify Social Security right away and to follow all the rules. If you still get an overpayment notice, see links above.

“I’m Sad My Check Didn’t Change”

Don’t be sad. If your finances change or living situation changes, but your check doesn’t change, you can take an action. Social Security will not change your check automatically. If you have had a change in your life, your check doesn’t just magically go up. You have to make the magic happen.


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

  1. 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

  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


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