Resource and Income Limits

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Adult Public Assistance (APA), you must both:

If your resources and countable income are below the limits and you have a disability or are age 65 or older, you get monthly benefits to help you pay for your basic needs. The amount you get each month depends on how much other income you have. If you get APA benefits, you also automatically qualify for APA-related Medicaid.

SSI’s and APA’s Resource Limits

When you do your applications for SSI and APA, you have to list money and property that you own. These are called resources. Some resources don’t count towards the resource limits for these programs, like the home you live in and and one vehicle. Social Security has a complete list of excluded resources.

Additionally, if your disability began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where you can keep up to $100,000 in resources and not have them counted by SSI or APA. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

Countable resources are all resources that aren’t excluded. You must have less than $2,000 in countable resources ($3,000 for a couple) to qualify for SSI or APA benefits.

If your countable resources are below the resource limit, you may qualify for SSI and APA.

Note: Real property, including the buildings on it, that is owned by an Alaska Native or American Indian is not a countable resource for APA-related Medicaid, but is counted for APA cash benefits. For this reason, an Alaska Native who owns land worth more than $2,000 might qualify for APA-related Medicaid, but not APA or SSI cash benefits.

SSI and APA Benefits Depend on Your Income and Your Living Situation

If you have a disability that meets Social Security standards and your resources are below the resource limit, you may get APA-related Medicaid, SSI cash benefits, and APA cash benefits.

Which of these benefits you get depends on how much countable income you have:

  • If your countable income is below the APA need standard, you get APA-related Medicaid
  • If your countable income is also below the APA payment level, you get APA cash benefits and APA-related Medicaid
  • If your countable income is also below the SSI maximum benefit level, you get SSI cash benefits and APA cash benefits and APA-related Medicaid

Use this tool to see the APA need standard, APA payment level, and SSI maximum benefit level for somebody in your living situation. These levels are based on your countable income. Since SSI and APA don’t count all of your income, you could actually work at a job and make way more than these limits and still qualify for benefits. Learn more about how your income is counted.

SSI and APA Income Limits

You don’t qualify for SSI or APA benefits if your countable income is above the APA need standard. However, you may still qualify for income-based Medicaid or the Working Disabled Medicaid Buy-In. Learn more about these options in DB101’s How Health Benefits Work article.

Example

Rodolfo has a disability, $1,000 in resources, and no countable income. He lives alone and doesn’t get help paying for his housing. He gets $735 in SSI benefits, $362 in APA benefits, and APA-related Medicaid health coverage.

Living Arrangements

If you live alone, the most you can get in SSI each month is $735 and the most you can generally get in APA is $362. However, the maximum benefit amounts might be different if:

  • You are married
    • If you live in the same household as somebody else and the two of you act as though you are married and present yourselves to the community as being married, Social Security considers you a married couple for SSI purposes.
  • Somebody else helps pay the costs of your food and shelter, or
  • You live in an institution, such as a hospital, nursing home, or prison.

If you are under 18 and living with your parents or relatives, the rules are different.

Rules for Couples

How SSI and APA look at your income and possible benefits depends on whether your spouse also qualifies for SSI and APA benefits.

If Your Spouse Does Not Qualify for SSI or APA

If you are married and your spouse doesn’t qualify for SSI or APA, then the SSI and APA programs figure out how much of your spouse’s income can be used to help pay for your basic needs. This process is called spousal deeming. For each dollar of your spouse’s income that can be deemed, the maximum combined amount of SSI and APA benefits you can get goes down by a dollar.

Example

Magda injures her spine and applies for SSI and APA. The two programs review her application and decide that she has a disability and that she and her husband, José, are below the resource limit. If they lived in their own place and had no income, Magda could get up to $735 in SSI benefits and up to $521 in APA benefits, for a combined total of $1,256 per month.

However, when the SSI and APA programs look at José’s income from his part-time job, they figure that José can use $450 of his monthly income to help pay for Magda’s basic needs. That means that after spousal deeming, the most Magda can get in benefits is $653 from SSI and $153 from APA. Combined, the most she can get from SSI and APA is $806, which is $450 less than it would have been without deeming.

If Your Spouse Does Qualify for SSI and APA

SSI and APA say you are part of an “eligible couple” if:

  • You are married
  • You live with your spouse, and
  • Both you and your spouse qualify for SSI and/or APA.

The most an eligible couple can get is $1,103 per month in SSI benefits and and $528 per month in APA benefits (only about 150% of maximum SSI and APA benefits for individuals).

Rules if Somebody Else Helps Pay for Your Food and Shelter

If you are single and pay for your own food and shelter, you get up to $735 per month in SSI benefits and $362 in APA benefits. Shelter expenses can include rent, mortgage payments, property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity, water, sewer service, and garbage collection. To qualify for this benefits amount if you live alone, you cannot get help paying for these expenses. If you live with other people, you must pay your fair share without getting help.

If someone else pays for some or all of your food and shelter, the maximum combined amount of SSI and APA benefits you can get may go down. This is called in-kind support and maintenance and how it is counted depends on your situation.

The Value of One-Third Reduction (VTR) Rule

The VTR rule says that the most you can get in SSI benefits goes down by one-third if:

  • You live in somebody else’s household, and
  • Somebody in that household helps with both food and shelter.

The VTR rule is all or nothing. It doesn’t matter how much you actually get in free food or free shelter; all that matters is that you get both from somebody living in the same household and you don’t pay anything for them yourself.

Usually, the maximum SSI benefit is $735. The VTR cuts that by one-third, or $245.00. Therefore, if the VTR rule applies, the maximum SSI benefits amount most people can get is $735 – $245.00 = $490.00.

If you are in this living situation and qualify for APA, the rule doesn’t work the same way: You qualify for up to$368 in APA benefits, which is actually slightly more than the maximum APA benefit for single people who live alone and pay for their own living expenses.

The Presumed Maximum Value (PMV) Rule

The PMV rule says that the most you can get in SSI benefits goes down by a certain amount if:

  • Somebody helps you with food and/or shelter, and
  • The VTR does not apply to your case.
    • Examples: The VTR does not apply if you do not live in the same household as the person helping you with your food and shelter, or if the person helping you does not help with both food and shelter.

The exact amount your maximum SSI benefits go down depends on your situation:

  • By default, it goes down by one-third of the maximum SSI benefit plus $20. For 2017, this Presumed Maximum Value (PMV) is $265.00 for an individual.
  • However, if the actual help you get paying for food or shelter is worth less than the PMV, then your SSI benefits are only reduced by the actual support amount.
    • If the value of the support you get is less than the default PMV, you must show Social Security documentation of how much support you actually get.

The PMV rule does not affect your APA benefits and for APA, the value of the help you get in this living situation is not counted as income. If you are single and living in this situation, you can get up to $362 in APA benefits, the same amount you would get if you were paying for your own food and shelter.

Note: The support you get according to the PMV rule counts as unearned income for SSI. Because the general income exclusion means SSI doesn't count your first $20 in unearned income, the amount of SSI benefits you get may be the same regardless of whether the VTR or PMV applies.

PMV examples
  • Edgar lives in a house with roommates and gets SSI benefits. He pays for his own food, but his father pays Edgar’s rent, which is $500 per month. Because $500 is more than the default PMV amount ($265.00), the PMV amount is used to calculate his SSI benefits. His benefits amount is $735 – ($265.00 – $20 for the general income exclusion) = $490.00. ­He gets $362 in APA benefits.
  • Manon lives in an apartment and gets SSI benefits. Her grandmother sends $120 each month to the landlord to help with the rent. If Social Security applied the full PMV amount ($265.00), Manon’s SSI benefits would be just $490.00 per month. But, because Manon showed Social Security that her grandmother's help was lower than PMV, her benefits amount is $735 – ($120 – $20 for the general income exclusion) = $635. She gets $362 in APA benefits.

Rules if You Live in a Medical Facility

If you live in a medical facility, such as a hospital or nursing home, you probably can’t get full SSI or APA benefits:

  • If Medicaid pays for more than half the cost of your care in the facility, the most you can get in SSI benefits is $30 per month and for APA, the most you can get is $170 per month.
  • If Medicaid does not pay for more than half of your care in the facility, you may qualify for a different benefits amount.
  • If your doctor says you will be in the facility for less than 90 days and you can show that you need your SSI benefits to keep your home or living arrangement, you may continue to get your full SSI benefits.
    • Note: If you’re expecting to stay for less than 90 days, you need to get the doctor’s note and documentation about your need to Social Security right away. The facility’s admissions office can help you.