WHY IS MY SSI CHECK BEING REDUCED AND

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

In 2004, the maximum Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check that low-income elderly, blind or disabled individuals can receive is $564 per month. If you have countable income above the SSI limit, however, your SSI check amount may be less than the $564 federal benefit rate. And, if someone helps provide you with all or part of your food, clothing or shelter, SSA may consider this help as a type of income and reduce your monthly check.

WHY DOES SSA TAKE PART OF MY CHECK?

SSA counts food, clothing and shelter that someone provides to you as a special type of unearned income called "in-kind support and maintenance." SSA determines the value of this "in-kind support and maintenance" (i.e., food, clothing or shelter) and takes it away from your monthly SSI check.

WHAT KINDS OF THINGS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE "IN-KIND SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE?"

SSA rules say that any food, clothing or shelter that someone else gives to you directly, or that you receive because someone else pays for it, is considered as in-kind support and maintenance. For example, if a friend buys food for you every month, or if your aunt pays your rent, you are receiving in-kind support and maintenance. SSA rules say that shelter costs that someone pays for you or gives to you, such as room charges, rent, mortgage payments, real estate property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity, water, sewerage and garbage collection services, are all considered as in-kind support and maintenance.

HOW MUCH WILL SSA REDUCE MY CHECK?

If you receive food, clothing or shelter from someone else, SSA will reduce your check by the cash value of the support you are getting. The maximum amount that SSA will reduce check is 1/3 of the full benefit rate, plus $20. That means that the maximum reduction in 2004 is $208, leaving you with a monthly SSI check of $356.

SSA uses two rules to determine how much your check will be reduced, depending on your particular situation.

One-Third Reduction Rule

If you live in another personís household AND receive BOTH food and shelter from that person, SSA takes one-third of your SSI check each month. A typical situation where the One-Third Reduction Rule would apply is when an SSI recipient lives with an adult relative (not a spouse) and the relative provides food and pays the rent every month.

 

The One-Third Reduction Rule does not apply if:

  • you or your spouse have an ownership interest in the house you are living in;

  • you or your spouse pay the landlord any part of the rent;

  • you live in a non-institutional care situation;

  • you pay your portion of the household and operating expenses;

  • all members of the household receive case public benefits (i.e., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families / TANF)

Presumed Value Rule

If you receive in-kind support and maintenance, but the 1/3 Reduction Rule does not apply to you, SSA uses the presumed value rule to estimate the value of the help you are receiving. The presumed value rule assigns a maximum value of one-third of your Federal Benefit Rate plus $20 (i.e., $208 per month) to the in-kind support and maintenance you receive. Your check is reduced by the presumed value of the food, clothing or shelter you are receiving. But if you can prove that the ACTUAL value of the food, clothing or shelter you are receiving is less than $208 per month, your check is reduced only by the actual value, not the $208 presumed value.

HOW DO I GET TO KEEP MY FULL SSI CHECK?

If you receive food, clothing or shelter from someone who lives with you, there are two ways to keep your full check:

  • If everyone in the household receives public benefits (i.e., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Transitional Assistance), your check should not be reduced;

  • If you pay your share of household expenses for food, rent and utilities, your check should not be reduced.

ARE THERE OTHER WAYS TO KEEP MORE OF MY SSI CHECK?

  • If you can show SSA that the value of the food, clothing and shelter you receive is actually less than the maximum presumed value of $208, then SSA will reduce your check by the actual value, rather than the presumed value.

  • If someone wants to help you out financially, they can pay other bills or debts such as medical bills, car payments, insurance premiums, etc. rather than providing you with food, clothing or shelter.

EXAMPLES:

Letís say you live in your uncleís house and pay rent for your room of $100 per month. Your uncle buys all the food and cooks for you. Your uncle is a gourmet cook and spends $400 per month for your food. (In this case, the 1/3 Reduction Rule does not apply to you because you are not receiving BOTH food and shelter from your uncle). The Presumed Value Rule does apply. The Presumed Value Rule assumes that the maximum value of the food you are receiving is $208 per month (not the actual $400 per month that your uncle is spending). Your SSI is reduced by $208 per month.

Letís say, however, that you pay your Uncle $100 per month rent. He still buys your food, but he feeds you Super-Saver macaroni and Cheese five times a week, so he pays only about $75 per month on all your groceries. The Presumed Value Rule lets you show SSA that the actual value of the food you receive is less than $208. Your check will only be reduced by the actual value ($75) per month.

You live alone, receive SSI, and pay all your rent, food and clothing bills. Neither the One-Third Reduction Rule nor the Presumed Value Rule applies to your case. Your kindly aunt wants to help you out. You have a car payment of $150 per month. Your aunt agrees to make this payment for you every month. This will not be considered unearned income or in-kind support and maintenance, so your SSI check will not be reduced.

SSA income rules can be quite complicated and confusing. If you have questions about how these rules apply to your particular situation, please feel free to call Health & Disability Advocates (formerly the SSI Coalition) at 312-223-9600.