How the Social Security Administration Defines Income


Income is any cash that an individual receives to meet their needs for food and shelter. There are four different types of income for the purposes of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits:

  • Earned Income: Net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties, honoria, and sheltered workshop payments;
  • Unearned Income: All income not earned; Social Security benefits, pensions, State disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, dividends, and cash from friends and relatives;
  • In-Kind Income: Food, shelter, or both that an individual obtains freely or below market value; and
  • Deemed Income: Income that is available to use by an individual or that which can be given from parent to child, spouse to spouse, or sponsor to alien.

Income Limits

Income plays a vital role in the SSI program. The more an individual makes, typically the lower the SSI benefits they will receive. If an individual’s income is above the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) limit, then SSI benefits will not be awarded. For 2020, the monthly maximum income for an individual is $783 and $1,175 for married couples. However, not all income is countable. There are some types of income that do not count against an applicant’s SSI eligibility. Income that is excluded from the SSI income threshold include:

  • Grants, scholarships, fellowships, or gifts used for tuition and educational expenses
  • The first $20 of most income received in a month
  • The first $65 of earnings as well as one-half of earnings over $65 received in a month
  • Small amounts of income received irregularly or infrequently
  • Food or shelter resources provided by nonprofit agencies
  • Refundable federal and advanced tax credits received on or after January 1, 2010
  • Income tax refunds

This is not a comprehensive list of which types of income are excluded from SSI calculations. For more insight on the types of income the SSA counts when making a decision on whether to award SSI benefits, consult with an experienced disability attorney.

How the Khaki Law Firm Can Help

Applying for SSI benefits is a confusing process, especially considering what the SSA counts and does not count as income. Our legal team at the Khaki Law Firm focuses on disability law and can help you with the countable earned income calculation. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more.

Click Here for a Consultation
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