Important: We updated this article in October 2023 to make sure all info below is correct. Marriage affects all aspects of life — including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But how, exactly, could marriage (or divorce) affect your SSI benefits? In short, it really depends on your spouse’s financial status 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 providing assistance.
Ultimately, if you currently receive monthly SSDI or retirement and you get married, your payment amount won’t change. If your monthly payments are based on your own work credits and past earnings, marital status changes won’t affect you. However, any change in marital status (i.e., married, divorced, widowed) will affect SSI benefits. Learn how they’ll impact your eligibility for payments before you apply or after SSI approval below.
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 2024, here is the maximum value of countable resources you can have and still qualify for SSI:
- $2,000 for individuals
- $3,000 for couples
How Changes in Marital Status Impact Your SSI Eligibility
Marital Status Change #1: Marriage
When a new marriage changes your marital status, the SSA views some of your spouse’s income and financial assets as your own. Examples may include your new husband or wife’s:
- Current work earnings
- Monthly SSDI payments
- Owned properties or vehicles
- Other types of unearned income, like child support or alimony
If your new spouse has a job that pays well, your combined resources may put you over the SSI benefits threshold. Here are the household income limits for SSI benefits in 2024:
- $963 per month in unearned income for you as an individual
- $1,435 per month in unearned income if you apply for SSI benefits as a disabled couple
Marital Status Change #2: Divorce
Getting divorced could make you more likely to qualify for SSI. That’s because most people’s monthly income goes down when one person moves out, not up. If you’re already on SSI benefits, then notify the SSA right away about any marital status changes. Why? Because you could see a boost in your monthly SSI pay amount after divorce. This usually happens when your former spouse’s work or other income reduced your monthly SSI amount. But if you already got the max SSI payment each month, then your monthly deposits should stay the same.
Important: You must provide the SSA with a copy of your divorce decree once it’s final. They’ll use this document to update your marital status for all Social Security-related purposes, not just SSI.
Marital Status Change #3: You Become Widowed
Before we say anything else, please accept our condolences. Losing a spouse is incredibly hard, no matter when it happens. To claim the one-time Social Security death benefit, you’ll need to show the SSA your spouse’s death certificate. Learn more about survivor’s Social Security benefits that may be available to you when a spouse dies.
Which Assets Are “Countable Resources” That May Affect Your SSI Benefits Eligibility?
The SSI program by design only supports the neediest individuals. So, here are some assets the SSA considers “countable resources” for SSI eligibility reasons:
- Vehicles (i.e., 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
- TANF, SNAP, or state-provided cash assistance each month
Resources That Don’t Count In Determining 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 9 months after receiving those funds
- Retroactive Social Security or SSI benefits for up to 9 months after receipt (including any lump-sum or installment payments)
For a complete, up-to-date list of countable assets and resource exceptions, visit the SSA’s website.
How Much Can Married Couples Receive In SSI Benefits?
If you and a new spouse both qualify for SSI benefits, then the SSA may change your monthly pay amount. In 2024, the maximum individual payment is $943 per month in SSI benefits. If two newly married people qualify for SSI, then you’ll receive one monthly check for $1,415, not two for $943.
Do Marital Status Changes Affect Benefits for Dependents?
Unlike SSDI, the SSI program does not pay benefits to spouses, children, or any other dependents. However, marital changes for people on SSDI could impact monthly payments to former spouses and children.
How to Get Free Expert Help Qualifying for Social Security Benefits
Still have questions? The logistics of changing your marital status can be hard enough without worrying about losing your SSI benefits. To get answers relevant to your specific situation, speak with a Social Security attorney. Plus, having a lawyer file your application makes you nearly 3x more likely to get payments within 6 months!
In addition to offering free phone calls to answer your questions, these lawyers always work on contingency. That means if you aren’t successful, then you pay your lawyer $0. And if you do win, you’ll only pay one small fee.
Want free expert help qualifying for disability? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now and see if you may be eligible:
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.