Two elderly individuals looking stressed out.

Why Would My SSI Benefits Be Taken Away?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides monthly payments to qualified individuals. You must be over 65 or suffer from a disability such as blindness, as well as be of limited income and resources to be able to qualify.

That focus on your resources is vital. If you are making more than $914 per month, then you cannot qualify for SSI (though the limit is higher for blind individuals). In addition, there is an asset limit of $2,000. If your SSI benefits suddenly stop, it is nearly always due to your perceived income.

Most people have a mistaken understanding of what is meant by income. They believe that income is derived from employment. This can lead individuals to miscalculate how much income they are actually earning in some cases, such as when they start earning a pension.

Some people don’t realize that their spouse’s income also counts as income. This typically isn’t a problem if your spouse’s income has stayed the same since you first applied. But if your spouse gets a raise, or if you’ve gotten married since you started receiving SSI benefits, then it could pose a concern.

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While income is typically the culprit, you can also have your SSI benefits taken away if you exceed the asset limit of $2,000. Say you win a contest for a new vehicle. It would be exciting. But it could also potentially push you over the asset limit and cause you to lose your benefits. It’s important to be careful with gifts, perhaps even more so than you would expect.

Can I Have My SSI Benefits Taken Away Because Somebody Gave Me Food?

It might seem crazy, but you could lose your SSI benefits if you were given free food and board. While receiving food from somebody or shelter from somebody isn’t income in the traditional sense, the Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies it as in-kind income.

In-kind income is something that you are given for free. It is not income that you earn by working or that you are receiving as benefits or through a pension. This could mean that somebody else is buying your groceries and paying your rent, that you’re living with somebody rent-free, or quite a few combinations thereof. Unfortunately, this can negatively affect your SSI benefits.

If you are found to have been living with another person for a month, receiving shelter and food from them for free, then the one-third reduction rule is typically applied. This means that your SSI benefits are reduced by a third. Say you were making $900 in benefits; now it would be $600.

The one-third reduction rule doesn’t work in all situations. If you stayed in your own home, but somebody else paid the bills for you, then the reduction rule doesn’t work. Instead, the SSA will make the presumption that the in-kind income you received was worth a third of your benefits plus $20. However, you can dispute this if you believe the true amount to be less. If you can show that it is less, then you can get back some of the benefits you lost.

Note that while food and board are the two most common types of in-kind support and maintenance, the SSA considers others kinds of gifts as well. For example, you can only receive a cash gift of $60 during each quarter year.

Will I Lose My SSI Benefits if I Go Back to Work?

Your SSI benefits are directly tied to your income. So if you return to work and start earning too much, you’re obviously going to lose them. But what happens if you return to work on a temporary basis?

The answer is that you might still lose your benefits. The income barrier is not the only qualification necessary to be approved for SSI benefits. You must also be incapable of making a living; otherwise, you wouldn’t need the benefits in the first place. If you return to work, you show that you are capable of earning again and, therefore, no longer need your benefits. Keep in mind, of course, that this is a maybe. The SSA will look into your particular situation to determine whether they approve of it or not.

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One thing that is important to note is that the SSA may consider volunteer work or work that you’ve done as a favor against your benefits. They may decide to look into your volunteer work to determine what the market value for your labor would have been in order to hold it against you. In this case, you didn’t earn an income, but you could be treated as if you had. The SSA can be quite tricky when it comes to allowing recipients to do anything resembling work.

However, the SSA does have a Ticket to Work program. This program incentivizes recipients to get back to work.

Does a Child Getting SSI Benefits Lose Them When They Turn 18?

When a child that is getting SSI benefits turns 18, the SSA reevaluate their case. Since the standards for SSI benefits is different for children and adults, this allows the SSA to see if they qualify as an adult.

Since turning 18 prompts a reevaluation, it is possible that a child will lose their SSI benefits. However, this is only sometimes the case. The SSA looks at each case separately, so the child’s unique circumstances will be the determining factor.

What Should I Do If My Benefits Suddenly Stop?

If your SSI or SSD benefits have suddenly stopped and you have no idea why it is important to speak to an SSI lawyer. They will be able to investigate what is going on with your benefits, help you to fight against unfair reductions, or appeal a decision like a rejection.

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Getting your benefits is a lot more difficult than it needs to be, but the help of an experienced lawyer will make the experience much easier to understand.

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