How Will Having Children Affect My SSI Benefits?

How Will Having Children Affect My SSI Benefits?
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The 2010 U.S. census reported that over 30 million families include parents aged 20 to 49 with children under age 18. As of December 2009, over 2.5 million of the 8.6 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients belonged to this age group. SSI beneficiaries who are also the parents of minor children need to understand how their children may affect SSI benefit amounts and eligibility.

Dependents of SSI Recipients

The Social Security Administration administers the SSI program. SSI, however, is not a Social Security benefit. Social Security benefits include payments for the eligible dependents of deceased, disabled or retired workers who paid into Social Security. SSI, however, pays no benefits to the dependents of beneficiaries. Supplemental Security Income recipients must be U.S. residents who are at least age 65, blind or disabled and whose income and resources fall within certain limits. Children do not qualify for any portion of a parent's SSI benefit -- a maximum of $674 for an individual or $1,011 for a married couple, at the time of publication. However, having children could be material to benefits if the SSI recipient has a spouse with income.

Income From an Ineligible Spouse

Social Security also considers the income of a spouse when determining an SSI recipient's total income. Total income may reduce the SSI benefit or eliminate eligibility. The SSA does not count all of the spouse's income -- the agency disregards amounts considered necessary for the ineligible spouse's needs. The amounts disregarded may also include $331 monthly at the time of publication for each minor child or stepchild the household supports. Income that cannot be disregarded reduces or eliminates the eligible spouse's SSI benefit. If the SSI recipient has minor children or stepchildren, allocating some income to the children may be the difference between eligibility and ineligibility for SSI.

Calculating SSI Benefits When Children Involved

For example, if a recipient and her ineligible spouse’s only income is the spouse’s monthly wages of $1,500, Social Security would ignore the first $85 and half the remainder. The net -- $707.50 -- reduces the SSI benefit rate of $1,011 for a married couple to $303.50. If, however, the couple have four children in the household, the SSA ignores $331 monthly for each child -- a total of $1,324.00. The remainder of $176 is too low to affect SSI benefits under the benefit payment rules. If the couple had no children, gross wages of $2,107 in a month would eliminate SSI eligibility. Just one child in the household would reduce the countable gross wages by $331, allowing the SSI-eligible member of the couple to receive at least partial payment.

SSI Recipient's Child Is Disabled

Disabled U.S. legal residents who meet the income and resource limits can receive SSI at any age -- even infants and children. If an SSI recipient’s disabled child also collects SSI, the benefit of one does not affect the other. The Social Security Administration uses the income of living-with parents to calculate benefits for a disabled child. However, any income of an SSI-eligible parent -- including income of an ineligible spouse used to figure the parent’s SSI -- does not affect the benefits of the disabled child.