How Much Can A Parent Make for A Child to Still Get SSI?

Published on January 15th, 2021

The Supplemental Security Income program administered by the Social Security Administration can be a much-needed financial resource for parents with a blind or disabled child. The SSI program provides monthly payments, but your child must meet strict eligibility guidelines that include strict income limits on how much a parent can make for a child to be eligible.

What is SSI?

The SSI program provides monthly payments to people who are 65 years of age and older or to younger individuals who are blind or disabled. It is a needs-based program, so one of the eligibility requirements is that an applicant cannot have more than minimal income, and assets cannot exceed $2,000 in value.

For a child to get SSI, parental income is taken into consideration in determining eligibility and the amount of the monthly benefit. Using a parent’s income to decide if a child qualifies is referred to by the SSA as “deeming.”

Taking a Parent’s Income Into Account

Deeming presumes that a child benefits from at least part of the income and resources, which is a term used by the SSA when referring to real and personal property, owned by the parents. Deeming only applies when the application for benefits is submitted on behalf of a child who is younger than 18 years of age and either lives at home with parents or resides at a school. A child living at school is still considered a member of the household if the child returns home on weekends or during vacations or holidays and the parents continue to assert parental control.

It should be noted that the SSA includes adoptive parents when referring to “parents” for purposes of deeming. The income and resources of a stepparent may also be taken into consideration in deciding a child’s eligibility for SSI provided the stepparent resides in the home.

Parental income that may be counted toward determining if a child is eligible for SSI includes both earned and unearned income. Earned income is the money you receive from your job. Unearned income includes interest and dividends you receive for investments, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Unemployment benefits count as unearned income.

SSA does not include the following as income in the deeming process:

  • Some pensions payable through the Department of Veterans Affairs,
  • Payments for caring for children, other than the child for whom you seek SSI benefits, under a foster-care program.
  • Money received under a state-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The SSA does not include the following assets belonging to a parent as part of the total value of resources allowable for SSI eligibility:

  • Value of money held in a pension fund.
  • The home where the child resides.
  • One car or any other type of vehicle that is used for personal transportation purposes.

Do not confuse the value of money in a pension fund with monthly payments a parent receives from a pension. The payments are included in income while the value of the fund itself is not a resource.

How much can a parent make for a child to qualify for SSI?

SSA uses a complex method to arrive at the amount of income a parent may earn without jeopardizing a child’s eligibility for SSI based, in part, on the number of other children in the family. The allowable gross monthly income for a parent increases depending upon the number of children, other than the child seeking SSI, living in the household. It also increases when there is more than one parent in the household.

As an example, a parent with only the child seeking SSI benefits may earn up to $3,257 a month. It increases to $4,041 when there are two parents in the household.

If another child is living in the household, the monthly earned income increases to $3,649 with only one parent and $4,433 in two-parent households. This example assumes the source of all income in the household to be earned, such as from a job. Unearned income is treated differently by the SSA with less income allowed each month than earned income.

Keep in mind that financial eligibility is an ongoing process. Changes in income or available resources could cause your child’s SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended.

Consult a Disability Attorney for Advice and Guidance

The rules, regulations, and application process involved in obtaining SSI benefits for a blind or disabled child can be frustratingly complex and confusing. There is too much at stake to attempt to navigate the system on your own. Making a mistake about eligibility or the documentation needed to support an application for SSI can be costly.

Instead of going it alone, get help from someone experienced in handling SSI claims. A disability lawyer reviewing your circumstances can offer advice and representation to guide you through the SSI process.

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