How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand

Art: Robin Mead

If you are applying for SSI there are a few rules and policies they probably won’t tell you, even though you really need to know them.

Before You Read This Page

Before reading this article, it’s a good idea to double check that you are actually applying for SSI. That way you won’t read the whole page for no reason!

🌟 If you’re not sure the difference between SSI and SSDI, you are not alone: What’s the Difference Between SSI and SSDI?

🌟 SSDI is better than SSI. If you were told you can’t get this SSDI, you might want to check this page before giving up: 21 Ways to Qualify Even If You Don’t Have Enough Work Credits

🌟 Why is SSDI better than SSI? Good question. Why is SSDI Better Than SSI?

🌟 If you think you are applying for both SSI and SSDI. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. Better double check: Am I Really Applying For SSI?

🌟 If you are completely certain you are actually applying for SSI, then yes, these rules are important. Read on!

How to Apply for SSI Without Falling Into Quicksand

It is helpful to keep in mind that while you are applying for SSI, the way you are living right now can affect your back pay check in the future. Here’s a few of the most common problems that come up, along with a few of the most common solutions for SSI complications:

Common Problems: Who You Live With

Getting Married – Getting married can cause your SSI to be reduced or eliminated. This is because they will count all of your spouse’s income and resources. It is unfortunately very hard for married people to get SSI. How to Apply for Disability if You Are Married to Someone With Income

Living with a Boyfriend or Girlfriend or Partner – In many cases, this will not impact SSI. However, sometimes Social Security will ask questions to determine if the person living with you is similar to a spouse. If they decide yes, they will start treating you like a married couple, which may lower or eliminate SSI. Learn more here: Holding Out As a Married Couple (SSI Regulations)

Living with Other People – No problem. Social Security only cares about spouses (and sometimes boyfriends/girlfriends). Living with anyone else has no impact on your SSI. I Live with Other People. Does Their Money Count?

The Big Exception

The Big Exception – There is one big exception to many of the rules below: A live in spouse. If you live with your spouse, his or her income has already been included on your case. It has no effect if your spouse gives you money, pays your bills, or gives you a free place to live.

Common Problems: Who Pays Rent

Free or Discounted Rent – Someone giving you free rent or a free place to stay can cause your check to go down. Rent that is very discounted may or may not be an issue.

Free Rent That You Have to Pay Back – No problem. Someone giving you free rent or a free place to stay with the agreement that you will pay them back. This will not impact SSI. Learn more about: rental loan agreements

Someone Paying Your Rent – May cause your SSI to go down.

Someone Loaning You Rent Money – No problem. Loans never affect SSI as long as long as there is a valid, signed loan agreement.

Student Loans or Grants (When Used for Rent) – Depends. Loans never impact SSI. Most government student financial aid grants do not impact SSI. Learn more: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

Subsidized Rent – No problem. HUD, Section 8, Vouchers, other government housing programs. Won’t impact your SSI. Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky

Paying the Wrong Amount of Rent – If you live in a house with other people, Social Security will look to see if you are paying your “fair share.” How Much Rent to Pay on SSI

Homelessness – If you are homeless, this may or may not lower your SSI. It depends how long you are homeless and how transient you are and where you are staying. More details here: How Much is SSI if You are Homeless?

Common Problems: Gifts and Help

Someone else paying your rent, food or utilities – It depends if these payments are a loan or a gift. Gifts will lower your SSI. Loans will not if there is a valid signed loan agreement. I’m On SSI. Can a Person or Program Pay My Bills?

Someone else paying your other bills – No problem. If it’s not rent, food or utilities, it has no impact on SSI. Unless there is….

Someone giving you money to pay the bills yourself – If the money goes to YOU it will always lower your SSI. Even if you only have the money for five minutes, it will still count.

Student Loans, Scholarships or Grants – Depends. Loans never impact SSI. Most government student financial aid grants do not impact SSI (even went spent on other things). Learn more: How You Can (and can’t) Make Money While on SSI

Government programs – Usually no problem. SNAP food stamps, HUD housing assistance, LIHEAP utility assistance and many other forms of government aid do not impact SSI.

Working – this will almost always cause SSI to reduce. How Does Working Affect My SSI?.

Change in household income – It depends who in the house is getting more money. If it is your spouse, it will impact your check. For adults: If it is anyone else you live with, it will have no impact.

Someone giving you money or inheritance – This will lower SSI. There are sometimes exceptions. I’m on SSI. Can someone give me a gift or inheritance?

Your Spouse has a change of income – If you are living together, this will impact your SSI. If you do not live together, it does not impact.

Common Problems: Resources

Sharing a bank account/having your name on someone else’s account – Don’t do this. Unless the money in the account is 100% yours and no one else’s money every gets put in. Sharing bank accounts can create a huge mess for people on SSI. (exception: If you live with your spouse, it doesn’t matter if you share an account with your spouse).

Having two cars – You can own one car without problems. If you are married, still one car! If you need a second car, look here: How to Own Two Cars on SSI

Not knowing the resource limit – Resource limit is $2,000 for single people $3,000 for married couples. Resource limit only counts on the last day of the month. Resource limit for children on SSI is more complicated: How Much is the SSI Resource Limit? Not everything counts as a resource: What Counts as a Resource for SSI?

Going over the resource limit – If you’ve gone over the limit, Social Security has special policies about how you can fix this situation: If You Are Over the SSI Resource Limit

Saving Money the Wrong Way – You are allowed to save money sometimes in some situations: How Can I Save Money While on SSI?

Feeling Confused?

🌷 If you are feeling confused or you are being told conflicting information, there’s a very good chance this is happening because someone is mixing up the resource room with the income rules. Totally different rules! How to Tell the Difference Between the Income and Resource Rules

🌷 It’s also possible someone is mixing up the SSI rules with the SSDI rules. Also totally different rules! How to Understand the Difference Between SSI and SSDI

🐳 If you first became disabled before the age of 22, you may be eligible for Adult Child Benefits instead of (or in addition to) SSI. This might mean more money and less stress. It may be worth making an extra effort to take extra steps to collect medical documentation proving this earlier date.

🐳 Lots lots more rules: How to Stay Out of Hot Water with SSI

🐳 Also (hopefully) helpful: How to Survive Financially While Applying

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. 

Updated May 2019. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

25 thoughts on “How to Apply for SSI Without Falling into Quicksand”

  1. I have a checking account and a saving account. I just applied for SSI. I have had the saving account since 1999 when I was in the 7th grade. How does saving accounts work with SSI?


  2. First I want to thank you so much for this site, and what a wonderful asset it really is to people going through the SSDI and SSI processes! I received a fully favorable SSDI decision early March 2020. Soon after I had an SSI interview. The woman told me that I would not be eligible to receive SSI because my SSDI payments that would be coming are more, so I would get my SSDI back pay quicker if we just close that part out. During this. I received a letter saying that I would have been eligible from December 2018 until my decision to receive SSI, and so I thought I would be receiving backpay from that, and then not receiving SSI moving forward. I have contacted Social Security and they say that there is no information in the system that they will be paying me anything because I’ve answered all these questions saying that I understood and that it was closed? This was in the beginning of the pandemic and the lady was just going through a list of things almost to dissuade me, but she told me it wouldn’t affect the backpay. I am just confused, because I have passed due medical bills and was living on nothing for that whole time. Does this mean I cannot get my SSI backpay that I was eligible for because of that interview? I have never agreed to not get back pay? I just don’t want to have to get an attorney involved since it would probably only be a few thousand dollars but that is money that I desperately need. Any thoughts appreciated🙏


    1. If there are any months AFTER you first applied when you received no SSDI backpay covering those months… you should be eligible for SSI backpay during those months… you could submit a request for reconsideration form as a way of appealing.

      A fully favorable decision doesn’t usually have any months like this, though. It would be rare.


  3. My son applied for SSI in Ca and was approved. But his backpay was reduced because they said he was only paying $50 rent. Which was not true he was paying me $150 a month. He never received a notice about his approval and why it was reduced. Now this was in sept of 2018. We’ve been trying to contact ssa about it for the past year and half and was told to send a statement of facts from my self we did that 2 times and called several times. Just recently they told him to send another one so we did and registered it to be sure they’receive it. So now they said he has to appeal or do a reconsideration to why he took so long. And send in the copy of his award letter which he never received one. Also we spoke today to ssa and the agent assisting him on the phone said to hold on he was gonna send a copy of it well he gets on he says he couldn’t find any letters pertaining to his approval and why his backpay was reduced


    1. It may help to Fill out a request for reconsideration form…. then continue to appeal. That will eventually get you to hearing with someone who will have to look into the issue with you.


  4. What a great find. Thanks for sharing all the information. My question is whether there is a maximum amount to state on the rental loan agreement. My adult child’s share of mortgage and food will clearly exceed the maximum SSI amount. Should I just charge her the maximum SSI amount or can it be higher than the amount?


    1. Hi Pop, The Social Security policy says that any kind of loan agreement must have a valid plan for paying the money back. If they amount of the loan cannot realistically be paid that on SSI, they might Not consider this to be a valid agreement. If you follow the links on the page above for how much rent to pay on SSI, there is another way for a homeowner to set rent based on fair market value or the amount another tenant would be charged. Hope this is helpful.


  5. Hi my name is Daphne and 1 of my questions didn’t get answered. The question that I have is what if I adopt my boyfriends name? Will my SSI be effected?


    1. Hi Daphne,

      I’m not certain I understand the question. Are you thinking of taking his last name as your legal last name?

      I have not seen any policies specifically addressing this.

      If you are living apart, I can’t see how it would make a difference.

      If you are living together, my guess is they might consider that if making a decision about holding out as married. Hope this helps.


  6. I currently live in Mississippi which is where I have applied for SSI. If I move to another state and their amount is higher, will my check increase or is it locked to the Ms amounts?


  7. Well here I sit reading this and am now wondering……My old boss(who I was working for when I became sick) contacted me and asked if I would move into his parents house(they have moved and left it to him to care for). All I have to do is pay utilities and in exchange for caring for the house I can live in it. I took him up on the offer as I have lost my home due to repo last month. Do I need to write up an agreement for this and if so Since no money is exchanging hands should a monetary amount be set for rent paid via occupancy? Def not living here for free as there is tons to do around here but my daughter does most of the work. We do pay utilities which is about 200 a month. TIA


    1. Either you are getting free rent as a gift, or you are getting free rent as a job, or your daughter is working and giving you free rent as part of her job.

      Either way, your backpay will be reduced because you are not paying rent.


  8. Hello, this is the most informative and up to date website about SSI I’ve found so far. My parents, 65 years or older, not enough work credit, and very limited resources and no income, they just applied for SSI in person at the local SSA office. They met an officer who asked all kind of questions about finances and living arrangements, he filled the application then printed it and handled them a copy. He didn’t explain what’s next but on the last page of the application it states that they’ll make a decision in about 30 days. Will they need to call them for second interview or when should we expect to hear back?…. They didn’t apply for any disability.


    1. It sounds to me like they’ve done the interview how and should be making a decision. I hope it goes great for them. If your parents are married and live together, unfortunately, that would lower their amount. If they have any changes to their situation at any point, they should let SSA know.


  9. Thank you for all the information so helpful. I did have one question, my father is going to let me stay in his home while i wait on my ssi and ssdi outcome, and we were going to do a rental loan agreement. However he is concerned about being taxed because he will basically be renting it out to me (according to the rental loan agreement) and once I am approved I will repay him for the months I have stayed in the dwelling. So my question is does he have to state in his taxes that the property is being rented out to me if I am not paying him as of yet. Thanks


    1. hi avi,

      This is an excellent question. I’m sorry that I don’t know the answer. Common sense would say he would report income when/if he actually gets the money, but I don’t know how it works. I know there are things that landlords can write off their income to make the taxes less. Hope it goes well for you.


  10. My son will be turning 18 soon and he will be applying for SSI. We had set up a 529 College savings account and Education Savings Account for him when he was very young. Will the funds in those account be counted as a resource to him? I’ve tried to research this issue, and I’ve come up with different answers. Can you please let me know your opinion? Thank you !


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