The Social Security Administration (SSA) adjusts benefit amounts it pays to people receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI) benefits. The adjustments are intended to keep the buying power of the benefits in line with the rate of inflation over the previous year. Our focus in this blog post will be limited only to SSI payments because the formula used to set payment amounts in the SSI program is entirely different from the SSDI program.
London Eligibility Disability Advocates wants all our clients to fully understand exactly what benefits they are entitle to and how the amount of their monthly benefit payments is calculated. Our entire team of SSI lawyers and professional advocates will assist you with all your SSI issues, whether you are just thinking of filing for benefits or you are currently dealing with some problem regarding your ongoing SSI benefit payments. Contact London Eligibility Disability Advocates for help today.
2022 SSI Payment Amounts and How They Are Calculated
The maximum monthly SSI benefit payment amount in 2022 is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for an eligible couple. They system used by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to calculate each benefit recipient’s monthly payment amount is to start everyone’s benefit payment at the highest amount possible and then to deduct an amount determined by the recipient’s countable income.
Because everyone’s countable income is unique to them, the formula produces a different monthly benefit amount for each SSI recipient. We’ll explain the process identifying the income that gets counted and the income that does not get counted.
Different Types of Income – Earned v. Unearned & Countable v. Not Countable
SSI recipients’ income is divided into two categories by the SSA for purposes of considering what forms of income are “earned” and what income is “unearned.”
Unearned income consists of money or items of value you received for which you did not work or exchange any services or property. Unearned income could include everything from housing subsidies from HUD or other public assistance to gifts from relatives. Earned income is just that, income you receive in exchange work or from selling something.
But not all forms of unearned or earned income are counted by SSI to determine your monthly benefit.
This blog post is too brief to list every form of income that is not counted but here are some of the most common forms of income that are not counted:
Unearned Income SSI Does Not Count
1). The first $20 per month
2). Income set aside or being used to pursue a plan for achieving self-support by a disabled or blind individual
3). State or local assistance based on need that is wholly funded by the state or local area in the state
4). Rent subsidies under HUD programs and the value of supplemental nutrition assistance (formerly referred to as food stamps)
5). The first $60 of infrequent or irregularly received income in a quarter
Earned Income Not Counted by SSI
A). The first $65 per month and any unused portion of the $20 unearned income exclusion, plus one-half of the remainder
B). Impairment-related work expenses of the disabled and work expenses of the blind
C). Income set aside or being used to pursue a plan for achieving self-support by a disabled or blind individual
D). The first $30 of infrequent or irregularly received income in a quarter
Other Income Types
SSI also considers what it calls “deemed income.” This is income that a spouse or parent with whom you live received that SSI deems to be partially countable for you because you benefited from the food and shelter that they paid for. SSI also counts “in-kind income.” That’s income like free food or housing you received, like being charged less rent than market value.
Supplemental Security Income’s Benefit Calculation Formula
The Social Security Administration’s technique for determining how much your monthly SSI payment will be follows this pattern. SSI starts with the maximum possible SSI benefit amount, which is $841 in 2022.
Then, they exclude all the sources of income that are not counted toward the figure they ultimately identify as your “countable income.” As an example, let’s apply the formula to a hypothetical person we’ll call John.
Example: John lives in subsidized housing partially paid by HUD. John also receives home heating assistance from his town government, and part time a few hours per week at a local grocery store by which he earns $80 per week.
John’s Monthly Numbers
Maximum Possible SSI Benefit = $841
HUD Housing Subsidy = $450 (not counted)
Home Heating Assistance = $100 (not counted)
Earned Wages = $320
Total Countable Income = $320 per month
1). SSI excludes the first $65 earned, plus any part of the $20 exclusion not used from any countable unearned income. That means $65 plus $20 ($85) of John’s $320 income will not be counted. ($320 – $85 = $235)
2). SSI then excludes half (50%) of the remaining countable earned income. ($235 – 50% = $117.50)
3). After eliminating these amounts from John’s $320 income, only $117.50 is counted and deducted from John’s maximum possible SSI benefit amount of $841.
4). $841 (maximum benefit) minus $117.50 (John’s countable income) equals $723.50.
With the figures applied in John’s case, this month John’s SSI benefit payment will be $723.50.
Benefit Amounts May Change Every Month
The example we used in the previous section with our hypothetical SSI recipient named John is a bit of an oversimplified version of how your SSI benefit is determined. But the only real difference is that identifying and categorizing every cent of income you receive in real life is more complicated. Real SSI recipients tend to have many sources of income (federal needs-based assistance, state needs-based aid, food from food banks, SNAP funds, energy costs including home upgrades, a small pension, family gifts, etc.). Roommates may share rent and food.
And all these income amounts may change each month. Each month’s benefit is based on only the current figures reported to or known to the Social Security Administration.
London Eligibility Is Here to Help You Get Your Maximum SSI Benefit
The list of what SSI counts as income and what it excludes from counting is long and complicated. It’s no surprise that SSI recipients sometime miss claiming exclusions from their reported income every month, each time losing money they would otherwise have received in their benefit payment.