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SSI: I make too much money for my child to qualify. What’s next?

If you make too much money for your child to qualify for SSI, you have options. Here’s what you can do.

A person counts their money at a desk with a computer, calculator and bank statement nearby.

SSI is the federal program that provides cash benefits. It supports some people over 65 and some children and younger adults with disabilities. One common reason why people who apply get denied is because they make too much money. So If you think your child with a disability qualifies for SSI, but you have too much money for them to qualify, don’t give up. We’ll walk you through what you can do.

How does Social Security decide if your child qualifies?

If you don’t qualify for SSI because you have too much money, you have options

Denied based on your disability? Here’s how to appeal the decision.

To qualify for SSI, your countable resources must not be worth more than $2,000. If you are applying for your child, one important thing to know is that your child’s age matters. 

If your child is 17 or younger, SSA looks at the family’s resources. But if your child is 18 or older, SSA looks only at their resources. (Learn more about these resource limits). 

But the SSA (Social Security Administration) allows you to do 3 things to get under the resource limits: 

  1. Transfer money to an ABLE account for your child 
  2. Transfer assets into a payback or qualified “Special Needs Trust” 
  3. Sell or ‘spend down’ resources

1. Transfer your money to an ABLE account

  1. ABLE accounts are special savings accounts for people with disabilities. The SSA does not count the money in ABLE Accounts towards your resource limit. Transferring your money to an ABLE account is often the best way to “spend down” your resources. 

People often think of ABLE accounts as being for children, but adults can have them too, as long as their disability began before they turned 26. So if you are applying for your adult child, you can still transfer money into one of these accounts for their support.

2. Transfer assets into a payback or qualified “Special Needs Trust”

Special Needs Trusts are financial accounts that can be set up for a person with a disability (the ‘beneficiary’).

The funds in the trust can be used for things like clothes, recreation, education, medical care, special therapies, travel, and hobbies.

These trusts need to be created carefully, with the right documents and language. You should hire an attorney or organization with verifiable expertise in Special Needs Trusts. 

Generally, these trusts allow you to transfer excess resources so your child can qualify for SSI, Medicaid, and other benefits. These are called ‘qualified’ or ‘payback’ Special Needs Trusts.

One kind is the OBRA ’93 Disability Payback Trust – commonly called a (self-settled) Special Needs Trust or d4A Trust. This kind of trust contains the assets (money) owned by a person under the age of 65 who is disabled, as determined by Social Security. 

This trust must be irrevocable, which means  the trust can’t be dissolved or the assets taken back out once they’re transferred in.

When a beneficiary has this kind of trust, they also may qualify for Medicaid health insurance. When they die, Medicaid (but not Social Security) gets repaid for the benefits it provided to them while they lived. Any money left after that may go back to the family.

What about other Special Needs Trusts? 
There is another type of special needs trust that is more common than a qualified or payback special needs trust. It is called a 3rd party Special Needs Trust. This is the trust that some parents use to leave an inheritance to their child. However, to stay within SSI’s resource limits, extra resources must be transferred to a qualified or payback special needs trust, not a 3rd party trust.

3. Selling or “spending down” resources

Your 3rd option if your countable resources are over the limit is to spend them so you can qualify for SSI.

You can spend your money on anything you want, so long as you don’t transfer it to someone else (like your parent’s bank account). You can sell things like a house that you don’t live in, or personal property like a second car. If you have worked through these options and believe your resources are now under the SSI limit, you can request a new SSI interview. If your resources are still over the limit but your circumstances change going forward, you can apply again. Don’t forget that if you still make too much money for SSI and your child is 17 or younger, the requirements change when your child becomes an adult – that is a great time to try again.


If you have worked through these options and believe your resources are now under the SSI limit, you can request a new SSI interview. If your resources are still over the limit but your circumstances change going forward, you can apply again. Don’t forget that if you still make too much money for SSI and your child is 17 or younger, the requirements change when your child becomes an adult – that is a great time to try again. If your family is still struggling to make ends meet, without or without SSI, learn about other resources to support your family.

Learn More:

This content was reviewed for accuracy by Karen B. Mariscal, Esq. www.Kmariscallaw.com

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