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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the Transition to Adulthood

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the Transition to Adulthood

Published: Dec. 9, 2022Updated: Apr. 16, 2024

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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal government program that provides monthly payments to adults and children with disabilities on a needs basis. For children with an SSI-eligible disability, the application will take parental income into account. As soon as a young adult turns 18 years old, they can apply for SSI based on their own income and assets. We sat down with Scarlett VonThenen, Regional Manager of the Orange County Office of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, to discuss the benefits of applying to SSI as a young adult and other details.

How much can a person qualify for in SSI benefits in California?

As VonThenen explains, most young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities will not yet have a job when they turn 18, so they are less likely to have a lot of income and resources in their own name that would count against their eligibility for SSI.

To qualify for SSI, an individual cannot hold more than $2,000 in their name ($3,000 for married couples), though there are exemptions for the family home and a vehicle, among others. It is important to take this into consideration when setting up a savings account in your child’s name. However, an ABLE account such as California’s CalABLE makes it possible to save beyond the $2,000 limit. Hear VonThenen’s explanation in this clip:

The amount of SSI provided monthly depends on the living situation of the individual. In 2023, if a young adult is living at home in California and not contributing to rent and food, they can expect to receive $833.89 per month. If they pay their fair share of household expenses, including rent, SSI can provide as much as $1,133.73 monthly. “Those rates are slightly higher if the person is visually impaired or blind,” VonThenen adds. Since each state determines their own state supplement, these amounts are specific to California (here is the full table of California SSI payments).

Some parents might consider charging their adult children rent to reflect their fair share of household costs. VonThenen cautions that in order to qualify for the higher SSI rate, parents will need to create a formal lease agreement with their child. There could also be tax implications for families who receive rent, so parents should consult their tax advisor.

How does a young adult apply for SSI?

A young adult or their parent can start the application for SSI in person, online at ssa.gov/apply, or by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You will need:

  • The young adult’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number
  • The young adult’s mailing address, phone number, and email address (optional)
  • The parent’s name, phone number, and email address (optional) if you are helping your young adult apply.

Once the information is submitted, a Social Security representative will contact you by mail or phone within 7 to 14 business days to schedule an appointment to complete the process.

Can an adult work and still receive SSI benefits?

VonThenen, who is also a credentialed Work Incentives Practitioner, explains that although the federal government provides SSI for disabled adults, the priority is always to work. SSI is designed so that, from a financial perspective, it is always better to work. As the income received from employment increases, SSI income decreases. Gifts of money can also affect SSI income. Hear VonThenen’s explanation in this clip:

✅Tip: We recommend that recipients of SSI report their income every single month using the app or the call-in phone system. SSI tells people to mail their paystubs in monthly, but due to a backlog in paperwork, it could be a year or more before SSI checks them and requests backpay for overpayment.

Increases to SSI amounts and limits on assets

In 2022, the federal government announced an 8.7% Cost-of-Living Adjustment to SSI. More than seven million SSI beneficiaries will receive the increase on December 30, 2022. However, there is no planned increase to the limits on income or resources. The current asset limits have not been raised since 1989, resulting in poverty and marginalization for many adults who rely on SSI.

The National Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition, a member service of the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), is campaigning for the bipartisan Social Security Income (SSI) Savings Penalty Elimination bill (S. 4102), which would raise SSI asset limits to $10,000 per individual and $20,000 per couple. Call your senators to support this campaign.



How much can a person qualify for in SSI benefits in California?

How does a young adult apply for SSI?

Can an adult work and still receive SSI benefits?

Increases to SSI amounts and limits on assets

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Karen Ford CullUndivided Content Specialist and Writer

With a passion for fostering inclusive education and empowering families in the disability community, Karen Ford Cull brings a wealth of experience as a Content Specialist and Advocate. With a diverse background spanning education, advocacy, and volunteer work, Karen is committed to creating a more inclusive and supportive world for children with disabilities. Karen, her husband, and three sons are committed to ensuring that their son with Down syndrome has every opportunity to lead an enviable life. As the Content Specialist at Undivided, Karen guides writers to produce informative and impactful content that ensures families have access to comprehensive and reliable resources.

Reviewed by Brittany Olsen, Undivided Editor

Contributors Scarlett VonThenen, Regional Manager of the Orange County Office of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities

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