What Your Supplemental Security Income Check Can Be Used For

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program for low-income recipients, so it’s reasonable to ask what the monthly check could be spent on. If you are a direct recipient of SSI benefits, there is technically no limit to what you can use the money for, but it is important to watch how your spending affects your income. On the other hand, if you are a representative payee, there are spending rules you must follow. Here is an overview.

Spending Your Benefits Without Exceeding SSI Limits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) looks into the “countable resources” of each SSI recipient to ensure that they are within the program’s limits. Countable resources are things that you own such as money, property, stocks, and bank accounts that are counted under the program.

To stay eligible for SSI benefits, your countable resources must not exceed $2,000 if you are single or $3,000 if you are married. (See this page on the SSA website with a spotlight on SSI resources.)

What does this mean for your spending? While you can use your SSI benefits for virtually anything that’s legal, you must be wary of using the money in ways that can increase your resources. For example, purchasing luxury items is not prohibited, but it can increase your assets and may push your resources past the limit. Saving some money could also result in this, so if you have savings, make sure you remain below the resource limit.

Another aspect to watch is your payment for household expenses like rent, utilities, and mortgage. These bills are typically shared by the members of the household, but you must keep paying your correct share to avoid the SSA reducing your SSI check. If someone else, such as a relative, is shouldering your household payments, it could be considered an increase in your resources. An exception, however, is if you are living with your spouse.

All in all, the wise way to use your SSI benefits is to spend it on essentials such as food, home, healthcare, and other living expenses. It is best to keep your luxury spending to a minimum.

Spending Your Child’s SSI Benefits – Representative Payee

Some SSI beneficiaries, such as disabled children, need a representative payee to handle their benefit payments on their behalf. If you are a parent or any other kind of SSI representative payee, you must use the monthly payment for the best interests of its recipient. To ensure this, the SSA has strict guidelines on spending.

One is that the check must be used for the recipient’s “maintenance,” which includes food, clothing, personal needs, housing, and medical care. The rep payee is also required to open a dedicated savings account to keep the remaining money in the recipient’s name. It is possible for rep payees to also spend the money on other items such as recreational activities and paying off debts, provided these are for the recipient’s best interests and that their basic needs are covered.

If the SSA has provided back payment to make up for the waiting time during the benefits application process, this back pay must be used in the following order of priority:

  • Current needs like food, clothing, housing, and utilities
  • Improvements in living conditions, like upgrading medical care or getting at-home assistance
  • Special expenses like home improvement for the disabled, car payments, and extra-curricular costs.

Whether you are a representative payee or a direct recipient, the rules around SSI benefits can get confusing. If you are thinking about using the money for a specific purpose apart from your basic needs, make sure you are aware of how it can impact your benefits. Don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer for further questions. In Virginia, we at the Gillette Law Group can help clarify your concerns and guide you in maximizing your benefit payments. Call us at (855) 873-2604 today.