Your partner hasn’t worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, but they are disabled – and they want to file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Just like every other government-funded program, SSI is subject to strict rules and regulations. Since it’s a needs-based system, not only does someone have to be over 65 or disabled to qualify for SSI, but they also have to meet certain income limitations.
Unfortunately, the government doesn’t just consider your partner’s income and resources – they also look at yours.
Understanding the role of “deemed” income in an SSI claim
Basically, the Social Security Administration (SSA) assumes that part of your income can be used to help support your spouse. This income is “deemed” to be theirs for the purposes of calculating their benefit eligibility and amounts.
Exactly how much of your income is deemed to be your partner’s income depends on a number of factors. SSA will generally look at:
- The monthly dollar amount of your income
- The source of the income (with wages being treated more generously than “unearned” income like a pension or SSDI benefits)
- The number of minor children in the household (with each also being deemed an amount of your income for their support)
- Whether those minor children have any income of their own (from child support or part-time jobs)
Once SSA has made a determination about what income in your household is countable (and what is not) and how much is deemable to your partner, they will then determine their financial eligibility for the program. This is a separate decision from the determination of disability.
It’s important to note that you do not have to be legally married to your partner for them to count as your spouse under SSI’s rules. If you and your partner live together and “hold out” as a couple, you’re considered married for SSI purposes. This is true even if one of you is still legally married to somebody else.
SSDI and SSI are valuable programs, but they’re not easy benefits to obtain. If you haven’t been successful with your disability claim, it may be time to seek legal assistance.