The effect that additional income has on benefit eligibility, payment amounts, or other factors is determined by the kind of disability benefits for which you’re applying. Although there’s a financial review required during the disability claims process, only some income matters, and even then, only under certain circumstances.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
SSI is a need-based program, which means financial circumstances play a major role in not only eligibility but also the amount of your monthly benefit payments.
If you’re an adult and receiving SSI, then the SSA only considers your own income and other financial resources. These include not just income from employment though, but also:
- retirement funds or distributions,
- interest or other income from investments,
- support received from friends or family,
- and any other income source.
Assets and Social Security Qualification
Assets are also reviewed, since some can be converted to money, which you could then use to support yourself. Assets include:
- long-term investments,
- cars and other vehicles,
- and other property.
Although the SSA considers all of these, they also exclude a portion of both income and assets, because they understand you can’t liquidate everything just to get by. In other words, they know you can’t get rid of your one and only car, since you need that car to get around, including to and from medical care providers.
For adult SSI applicants, the SSA must additionally look at other things that affect financial circumstances, like:
- if you live with friends or relatives but don’t pay rent, for example. In a situation like this, they will view your living situation as a financial resource, and it can therefore affect eligibility or monthly SSI payment amounts.
- if you are married and your spouse also receives SSI benefits. In this case, you and your spouse would only be entitled to receive a certain amount in combine SSI monthly. That amount can change from one year to the next, when the SSA implements annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).
When anyone under the age of 18 applies for SSI, the SSA considers the income and financial resources of the child and his or her parents. These may include parents’ income from employment as well as other types of income, like:
- child support,
- retirement benefits,
- or investment income.
The child’s living situation is also considered, including how many other people live in the household and whether the parents are caring for multiple children on a fixed budget.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
SSDI is available to qualified workers, and sometimes their dependents. Workers achieve eligibility by paying Social Security taxes on their employment income over the years. Income from employment can affect your eligibility, but other kinds of income will not make you ineligible for disability, nor will it reduce your monthly SSDI payment amount. In other words, as long as you do not exceed what the SSA considers “substantial gainful activity” or “SGA,” you may even be able to hold a part-time job and still receive SSDI, in some cases.
Getting Help with a Disability Claim
Knowing if, when, and how different kinds of income and other financial resources will affect disability benefits can be difficult when you’re unfamiliar with how the SSA’s rules work. Many applicants choose to consult an attorney that specializes in disability law for this very reason. A disability attorney or advocate can explain the SSA’s regulations and help you collect evidence, file your claim, and/or fight for approval, if necessary.