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?
🌷 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: