Savings accounts and disability benefits – Community News
Social Security

Savings accounts and disability benefits

Yes. If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you can have a savings account. However, there may be limits to how much you can have in it, depending on the type of disability benefit you receive.

To be eligible for SSDI, you must have a work history and a medical condition that prevents you from working or is expected to die for at least a year. There are limits to how much you can earn from work while collecting SSDI payments, but no limits on assets. You can have a savings account with as much money in it as you want to save.

That is not the case if you receive SSI, which provides financial assistance to elderly, disabled and blind people in financial need. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which runs the program, sets different (and significantly more complex) income limits for SSI recipients and also sets a ceiling on financial assets: You cannot own more than $2,000 in what the SSA considers “countable resources.” as an individual or over $3,000 as a couple.

Certain assets are not countable, including the house you live in, one vehicle that you or someone in your household uses for transportation, and a life insurance policy or policies with a total face value of $1,500 or less.

Money in a savings account, however, is a countable resource. That means you may not qualify for SSI if your account has more than $2,000 ($3,000 for a pair), or if it contains less, but your total countable assets, including the savings, exceed those numbers.

Savings Options for SSI Beneficiaries

The SSA makes exceptions for certain savings vehicles and programs designed for the disabled and low-income people. Using them, some beneficiaries can have more than $2,000 in savings and continue to collect SSI.

Achieving a better life experience (ABLE)

ABLE accounts provide a tax-free savings opportunity for people with disabilities who were diagnosed before age 26. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account is not a countable resource for SSI. Any balance over $100,000 will be calculated to determine if you meet the asset limit.

You can open an account through ABLE programs available in most states. Many allow eligible out-of-state residents to set up accounts, but there may be tax benefits to using your home-state plan. The ABLE National Resource Center allows you to compare state programs.

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

This is a written plan that you submit to Social Security for a work-related purpose that can help you become financially self-sufficient and reduce or eliminate your need for disability benefits. With a PASS, you can set aside money for things needed to achieve that goal, such as education, childcare or assistive technology. That money is not considered a countable resource for SSI.

To apply for a PASS, complete the form SSA-545-BK and mail it to your local Social Security office. The SSA can refer you to a career counselor or PASS specialist in your area for help writing your plan. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 or refer to the PASS brochure for more information.

Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)

IDAs serve as vehicles for low-income people to save money from their earnings for education, buying a first home, or expenses associated with starting a business.

In most cases, to open an IDA, you must work and receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Your contributions to the account may be matched by funds from state and federal aid programs, and none of that money is counted in determining your eligibility for SSI. Please contact your TANF agency for information.

To trust

Trusts are legal agreements in which one party holds and manages financial resources such as cash and property for the good of another. Some types of trusts can be used to hold money without compromising your SSI benefits.

Whether that is the case depends on the type of trust, who manages it, and how its content is used. For example, money paid to you directly from a trust, or used to provide food and shelter for you, can be counted as income and deducted from your SSI benefit. You can find more information in the online SSA article Spotlight on Trusts.