Individuals on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and those who support people on SSI, need to be aware that certain types of support payments that can cause a reduction in SSI benefits.

The types of payments that can cause reductions in SSI benefits are called in-kind support. In-kind support generally involves daily living expenses. Paying for food, mortgage, rent, and most utilities for an individual on SSI can cause their SSI benefits to be reduced. Property taxes and insurance can also cause a reduction in benefits. In order to avoid a benefit reduction, individuals should avoid paying for these in-kind support items using outside funds, including otherwise valid special needs trusts.

However, there are many other items that can be paid for without endangering an individual’s SSI benefits. Education expenses, including tuition and books, do not count as in-kind support. Other types of household expenses that do not count as in-kind support include furniture, internet, television subscription services, telephone bills, and clothing. All of these expenses, that are not considered in-kind support, represent methods that do allow individuals on SSI to receive support without risking a reduction in benefits.

Questions about what does and does not constitute in-kind support that would endanger SSI benefits should be posed to an experienced, local special needs attorney who would be familiar with the latest state and federal rules and regulations.

One method of support that allows for the payment of in-kind support expenses without endangering a reduction in SSI benefits is to use money from an ABLE account. However, in contrast to some special needs trusts, ABLE accounts have some additional restrictions, including account size, limits on yearly donations, and requirements to use any leftover money to payback the state Medicaid agency for benefits provided.

Please meet with an experienced special needs attorney to determine whether an ABLE account or a special needs trust would be appropriate for supporting your or a loved one’s specific situation.

Please note that the above restrictions on in-kind support do not apply to people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

To discuss your support options in relation to SSI benefits, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.