Marriage affects all aspects of life — including your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. But how, exactly, could marriage (or divorce) affect your SSI benefits? In short, it really just depends on your spouse’s financial assets and earning potential. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two different types of disability assistance: SSI benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Any changes in your marital status will affect your monthly disability benefits differently, depending on which program’s sending the checks.
Ultimately, if you currently receive monthly SSDI or retirement benefits and you get married, your payment amount won’t change. If your monthly benefits are based on your own withheld taxes and past earnings, marriage or divorce won’t change anything. However, any change in marital status (i.e., married, divorced, widowed) will affect your SSI benefits.
How the SSA Determines Eligibility for SSI Benefits
When the SSA reviews your SSI claim, you must meet the agency’s strict income and resource limits to qualify. (Income and financial assets fall under the “non-medical criteria” all applicants must meet in order to qualify for SSI benefits.) In 2022, here is the maximum value of countable resources you can have and still qualify for SSI:
- $2,000 for individuals
- $3,000 for couples
Of course, after marriage, the SSA views some of your spouse’s income and financial assets as your own. Examples may include your spouse’s current work earnings, SSDI payments, owned properties or vehicles, and other types of income. If your new spouse has a job that pays well, your combined resources may put you over the SSI benefits maximum eligibility limit. Your combined household income must be less than $1,350/month to qualify for SSI payments in 2022.
Which Assets Are “Countable Resources” That May Affect Your SSI Eligibility?
Since Supplemental Security Income supports the neediest individuals, here are some assets that are considered “countable resources” by the SSA:
- Vehicles (boats, motorcycles, cars, ATVs, snowmobiles)
- Shared or individual bank account balances
- Stocks and U.S. savings bonds
- Personal property which you can sell for cash or exchange for food and/or shelter
Resources That Don’t Count In Determining Your SSI Eligibility
This list is more complicated, but here are some things you can own and still potentially qualify for SSI benefits:
- The home you live in as well as the lot, if you own it
- Your personal effects and household goods (i.e., your wedding rings, appliances and furniture)
- Burial plots purchased for you or anyone in your immediate family (this extends to cover burial funds for both you and your spouse if their individual value is $1,500 or less)
- Life insurance policies for you and your spouse that are less than $1,500 total value when combined
- One vehicle used by you or any household member for transportation, regardless of its blue book value
- Certain grants, scholarships, fellowships or other forms of tuition/education assistance for nine months after receiving those funds
- Retroactive Social Security or SSI benefits for up to nine months after you receive them (including any lump-sum or installment payments)
For a complete, up-to-date list of countable assets and resource exceptions for getting SSI benefits, visit the SSA’s website.
How Much Can Married Couples Receive In SSI Benefits?
If you and your new spouse both qualify for SSI benefits, the SSA may change your monthly check amount. In 2022, the maximum individual payment is $841 per month in SSI benefits. If both spouses qualify for the maximum SSI payment, you’ll receive one monthly check for $1,261, not two for $841/apiece.
What Happens If My Marriage Ends?
If your spouse currently gets SSI, any change in marital status will affect your benefits. That remains true whether you’re a widow, widower, divorced widow, or a divorced widower. In general, you cannot qualify to receive your deceased former spouse’s SSI if you remarry before you turn 60. You also will not qualify for your deceased spouse’s SSI payments if you’re disabled and remarry before age 50. If you get divorced, you can still receive some portion of your former spouse’s monthly SSI until you remarry. If you get monthly SSI for children under 18 or students aged 18 or 19, those benefits end when you remarry.
You May Qualify For Legal Assistance
Still have questions? The logistics of changing your marital status can be hard enough without having to worry about losing your SSI benefits. To get answers about SSI benefits relevant to your specific situation, consult with a Social Security attorney. Plus, having a lawyer file your benefits application makes you nearly 3x more likely to get approved! In addition to offering free, no-obligation legal consultations to answer all your claim questions, these lawyers always work on contingency. That means if you don’t win benefits, you pay that lawyer $0 for helping you. And if you do win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.