In order to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits , a beneficiary must meet both income and resource limits in addition to meeting certain medical requirements. SSI eligibility also means eligibility for Medicaid. If the person is not eligible for SSI then the person is not eligible for Medicaid. Most states will not provide Medicaid to individuals over the age of 18 unless the individual is also receiving SSI benefits. It is important to understand all the eligibility rules for SSA programs.
While the income limit under the SSA statute can be complicated by the types of income an individual or family is receiving, the resource limits are standardized: an individual is allowed a maximum total of $2000 in resources/ assets and a couple is allowed $3000. A family which has more than 2 people will have a resource/asset limit of $3000.
One countable resource that surprises many potential or current beneficiaries is the ownership of a vehicle. Under the SSI rules, an individual or family is allowed to own one car regardless of its value. If the individual or family owns a second car, it will be counted as an asset and its value will count toward a beneficiary’s resource limit. There are only a few exceptions to this rule. Therefore, potential applicants must be sure they meet the car ownership rules when determining if their assets meet the SSI requirements. A typical problem arises if a family’s second car is valued at more than $3000. Once the car is valued at more than $3000 the family resource and asset amount has exceeded the SSI limit and the individual who was applying for SSI or who was receiving SSI benefits is no longer eligible for SSI.
The Social Security defines an “automobile” as
“any registered or unregistered vehicle used for transportation.” Even a temporarily broken down car that is normally used for transportation will meet the SSA definition of an automobile. It is important to understand how Social Security will determine the value of your vehicle.
If a person or family owns 2 cars a determination as to the value of the car should be made before filing an application for SSI. The Social Security Administration uses the N.A.D.A Guide to determine vehicle value. To read more about the SSA rules and for information on how SSA values second cars go to the SSA Digital Library Electronic Resources website at secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0501130200.
More information on how to appeal the SSA evaluation of your second car will be discussed in the next issue of the CF Roundtable. If you have questions about Social Security benefits please call the CF Legal Information Hotline at 1-800-622-0385. The Hotline is sponsored by a grant from the CF Foundation. All calls are free and confidential.