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An Adult Disabled Child and SSI

Nov 27, 2010

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) makes monthly payment to people who have low income and few resources and are:

  • Age 65 or older,
  • Blind or
  • Disabled

Deeming Income and Resources to an Adult Disabled Child

If a disabled a child is younger than 18, he or she may not be eligible for SSI income benefits because the program deems income and resources from adult family members available to support the disabled child. At 18, the child is legally an adult. At that time, SSI does not count income and resources of adult family members available to support the adult disabled child. In determining whether the adult disabled child is eligible for SSI only the disabled adult child’s income and resources are counted.

Rules Regarding Gifts to the Adult Disabled Child

SSI counts cash gifts to an SSI recipient as income and reduces the beneficiary’s SSI benefits dollar for dollar. SSI does not count as income bills paid by someone else for any item other than food or shelter. Now SSI allows for the purchase of clothing without reduction in benefits.

Never reimburse the disabled adult child for a purchase. The family member should pay the bill directly to the service provider.
Food or shelter purchased, or provided, by someone other than the disabled adult child can reduce the SSI benefit. However, there is a limit on the reduction of benefits. The limit is about one–third of the maximum Federal SSI amount payable in a month. SSI cannot reduce the SSI payment by more than one-third no matter how much food or shelter is provided by a third party.

At one time, my advice to parents of an adult disabled child who lived in their household was to create a room and board agreement between the disabled adult child and the parents stating that one-third of the disabled child’s income would be paid to the family for reimbursement of housing and food expenses. However, SSI takes the position that the one-third reduction always applies unless the disabled person’s monthly payment equals his or her ‘fair share.’ For example, if the mortgage is $2,800 a month and the number of adults living in the household is 4 then the ‘fair share’ is $700. With a maximum of $674.00 in monthly SSI benefits, the one-third reduction applies since the family is deemed to be contributing $224.66 in food and shelter expenses.

If the room and board agreement requires full payment of the SSI benefit, then SSI should not reduce payment by one-third but only the difference between $700 and $674.00. The family can still pay clothing, transportation, medical costs and other items that are not food or housing and not be subject to the one-third reduction rule.

These are complicated rules. In fact, there isn’t even total consistency in how Social Security offices apply the rules. But a basic understanding is important to maximize SSI benefits.

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