Posts in:December, 2022

Will Gifts Affect My SSI Eligibility?

Posted December 27, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Some gifts may count as income, in which case they can affect your SSI eligibility. But determining which gifts do and do not affect your eligibility can be complicated. First, you have to determine whether or not specific exclusions apply. Then you have to determine if particular conditions apply that would preempt or otherwise invalidate those exclusions. Finally, there’s one more round of exclusions to review before a gift is considered income, should the first set not apply.[1]

                The first set of exclusions are household goods and personal effects. Per 20 CFR § 416.1216(a) and (b), these are excluded from being counted as resources, which effectively keeps them from being counted as income as of April 1, 2005, as explained in a Social Security Administration operating manual, SI 01130.430. Unfortunately, the CFR isn’t particularly useful in determining whether these exclusions apply to a particular gift, because it doesn’t provide useful definitions of either.

Luckily, SI 01130.430 fills this gap, providing not only robust definitions but examples of each exclusion. Household goods are “items of personal property, found in or near the home, [that] the householder uses on a regular basis… for maintenance, use, and occupancy of the premises as a home.” ((C)1). Personal effects are “items of personal property ordinarily worn or carried by the individual, or items that have an intimate relation to the individual.” ((C)2).

There are limits to these exclusions. First, neither can apply to items an individual acquires or holds because of their value or as an investment, including animals kept for breeding or resale purposes. Furniture, appliances, and household electronics (i.e. televisions) are used for their utility around the home, not their dollar or investment value. Similarly, jewelry and other trinkets that are regularly worn or that have sentimental value are valued for factors other than their dollar or investment value. However, if it isn’t regularly worn (or designed to be worn), and if it doesn’t have some sentimental value (i.e. a family heirloom), it may not be considered a personal effect. (More detail is provided in 20 CFR § 416.1205.)

If your gift doesn’t qualify for either the household good or personal effect exclusion, there is one more set of exclusions to review. Necessary medical devices and personal care devices, such as prosthetic devices, are not counted as income. Items of cultural or religious significance also are not counted as income. Finally, educational gifts such as books and money used toward tuition are not counted as income. These exceptions can be found in 20 CFR § 416.1216.

If none of the above exclusions apply to your gift, it will be counted as income. In that case, a fair market value will be assumed for your gift, and it will count toward the SSI asset limit. If your total assets, including the fair market value of your gift, exceeds the asset limit, you will be ineligible for SSI. As of 2022, the SSI limit is $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

[1] These are actually a subset of the same exclusions reviewed in the first step. They’re also reviewed along with all other items during that step. They’re presented separately here only to highlight their importance and to aid understanding of the overall process.

Social Security’s “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) for 2023 changes

Posted December 20, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security’s “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) for 2023 increases disability payments for SSDI and SSI recipients by 8.7%, the largest increase since the early 1980s. This means that the average monthly SSDI payment for 2023 will increase by $119 and the maximum SSI benefit will go up by $73.

SSDI Changes for 2023

Monthly benefit amount. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) payments have increased by 8.7% for 2023. Social Security expects the average monthly SSDI benefit to be $1,483 in 2023, but the most anyone can receive will be $3,627 per month (there is no minimum amount).

Benefit amounts for dependents. Benefit amounts for the spouses and children of disabled workers have also increased by 8.7%. The average amount received by a married disability recipient with one or more children in 2023 will be $2,616.

SSDI limits on income. Social Security won’t consider you for SSDI benefits if you’re making more than $1,470 per month from working (up from $1,350 in 2022). But if you’re legally blind, you can make up to $2,460 per month. These are the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) limits.

SSDI limits on “unearned income.” The SSDI program has no limits on income like gifts, interest income, or unemployment benefits. SSDI recipients aren’t subject to an asset limit either. That’s because SSDI is an insurance program that people pay into out of every paycheck.

Number of work credits. To be “insured” (eligible) for SSDI, you must have paid into the system for a number of years, either by paying FICA taxes in a job covered by Social Security or by paying self-employment taxes. Social Security keeps track of how much you’ve worked by giving you credits for each calendar quarter you worked. The number of work credits you need varies for people of different ages, but to give you some examples, a 50-year-old needs 28 credits (7 years) and a 60-year-old needs 38 credits (9.5 years) to qualify for SSDI.

Income per credit. The amount of income needed to earn a credit for a calendar quarter of Social Security coverage has increased in 2023, to $1,640, but you can only earn four credits per year.

SSI Changes for 2023

Federal monthly payment. The new federal payment for disabled SSI recipients is $914 per month. For married couples who live together and who both receive SSI, the monthly payment is $1,371. You’ll receive less if you receive free room or board from friends or relatives, or if you make any income.

State supplementary payments. Many states add on a small state supplement to the federal amount, at least for some SSI recipients. Some states have increased the supplement amounts for 2023, but many have not.

SSI initial income limit. When you apply for SSI, you can’t be making more than $1,470 per month from working. If you’re legally blind, you can’t be making more than $2,460 per month. These are the substantial gainful activity limits.

After you’ve started receiving SSI benefits, you’re no longer prevented from making above $1,470 (or $2,460 for those who are blind or have low vision). But a different income limit does apply (it’s about $1,900 per month).

SSI income limit after approval. The SSI income limit applies after you’ve started receiving benefits. Any income you have (earned income like wages or unearned income like gifts) over $914 will reduce your benefit. But Social Security doesn’t count over half of the income you receive from work. In 2023, for example, if you make $915 per month and you live on your own, your federal SSI benefit would be reduced to $500 per month. The more you make, the lower your SSI benefit will be.

Student income exclusion. For students who receive SSI, Social Security will ignore $2,220 of income per month, up to an annual limit of $8,950.

SSI asset limit. The resource limits for SSI haven’t changed for many years: $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.

Am I Injured or Disabled?

Posted December 14, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security’s definition of disability separates itself from being that of a basic injury. The basic definition of disability is the inability to perform work at above a certain level of income due to impairments that have lasted or can be expected to last for at least 12 months.[1]

The hard part of the definition is predicted that your condition can be expected to last for at least 12 months. You may find that you have broken a bone and that a doctor has told you that it will never be the same again. Or you may have experienced a heart attack and had a permanent stent placed into your heart. Either way, you experienced some serious illness or injury and it has affected your ability to work.

It is nearly impossible to tell whether a person will have the same function after an injury or an illness as before. Some people may make a full recovery and never be limited again! Other times you may have some limitations for the rest of your life.

To find out more about whether your injury could actually be considered a disability, call Premier Disability Services today!

[1] See 20 CFR § 404.1505(a)

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®