Ninety percent of the individuals and families we work with receive SSI and Medicaid benefits and those are the individuals and families this article is written for. Because SSI benefits are “means tested” many families hesitate about their adult child earning “too much money” which consequently may have a negative impact on their benefits if they don’t do the proper planning. While a reduction in benefits is a valid concern, we should never prevent someone with a disability from reaching their highest potential. As long as the income and resource limitation rules relating to Medicaid qualification are carefully considered and safeguarded, there are ways to accomplish the individual’s employment goals.
While Social Security Administration (SSA) offers valuable programs for individuals pursing self-employment to continue receiving SSI and Medicaid (we will discuss this in a later article), here, we are simply reviewing one way you can plan and safeguard your benefits regardless of what type of employment you are pursuing.
Let’s say an individual with a disability, let’s call him Jim, is receiving SSI and Medicaid benefits and he wants to retain those benefits. Generally speaking, Jim’s countable resources should not exceed $2000 for the SSI and Medicaid programs. Some states have higher resource limits for Medicaid programs but for this example we are using the limits used in the majority of the states. It’s also important for Jim to keep in mind that if he receives just $1 of SSI, this results in automatic qualification for Medicaid in most states. That being said, it’s important for Jim to know the maximum he can earn so that at a minimum, he receives $1 of SSI so he can continue to receive Medicaid for his healthcare needs.
In most states, if Jim is not receiving food or housing from someone else and he has no “unearned” income, his monthly gross income should not exceed $1,553.00 in 2017. This is how the Social Security Administration will determine Jim’s eligibility for SSI:
$1,553.00 Monthly Gross Wages (before taxes)
- $20.00 SSA does not count the first $20
- $65.00 SSA does not count the first $65 of wages
divided by 2 SSA does not count half of this amount
$734.00 Countable Earned Income
$735.00 SSI Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is $735.00 in 2017
- $734.00 Countable Earned Income
$1.00 SSI Benefit Check
In summary, Jim can earn a maximum of $1,553.00 in monthly gross wages in order to qualify for a minimum of $1.00 of SSI benefits which results in automatic qualification for Medicaid benefits. Please be aware that this calculation should not be done without an experienced benefits planner or someone with a thorough understanding of the SSI program as there are other factors that may impact this calculation that were not discussed in this article.
As previously mentioned, this is just one way to plan for benefits while pursuing employment. In future articles we will discuss alternative strategies to meet the needs and employment goals for someone with a disability. We encourage families to properly plan for their child’s employment future in order to ensure its’ sustainability.