Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility rules are critical for trustees of Special Needs Trusts to understand. If SSI payments are received, the beneficiary qualifies as being eligible for Medicaid in many states.
A person must have limited income and assets to qualify for SSI eligibility. Income is any money received during a specific month. Anything left from that income becomes an asset on the first day of the succeeding month.
There are a number of other terms under the SSI rules that make distinctions regarding income, such as
- “countable” versus “excluded”
- “regular” versus “irregular”
- “earned” versus “unearned,” etc.
If you are serving as a trustee to administer special needs benefits and decisions, it pays to brush up on SSI terminology and eligibility rules. There are slightly different rules for each classification. This can become quite confusing.
SSI benefits are reduced by the amount of any unearned income. Money that was a gift or investment income falls under this category. It reduces the benefit dollar for dollar. The exception is a $20 per month “disregard” amount.
It is also important to understand SSI’s concept of “in-kind support and maintenance.” This is key to making decisions about trust benefits in regard to SSI. Necessities of life, such as food or shelter but not clothing, if paid for by a third party like a trust, when paid to a third party provider, becomes countable income. There are special rules surrounding calculations of these kinds of payments.
Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC in Vermont is experienced in Estate Planning and can help trustees better understand these complicated rules.