When determining the amount of your disability payments, the Social Security Administration first looks at assets and benefits you already receive on a monthly basis. Countable income includes earned wages, “unearned” income, including state benefits, pensions, interest, etc., in-kind income, including free or low-cost food and shelter, and the income of others living in your household. If this income exceeds the allowable limit, you will not receive benefits. If the income is less than the limit, you will receive benefits, but your existing income will be subtracted from your payment amount.
What the SSA Leaves Out When Calculating Your Countable Income
While the list of what is considered countable income may feel like the SSA is counting every measly penny coming into your house, there are many forms of income the SSA excludes from their calculations, including the following:
- The first $20 of most income
- The first $65 of earned income plus an additional half of your monthly wages above $65
- The value of food stamps
- Income tax refunds
- Grants, fellowships, or scholarships
- Food and shelter provided by non-profits based on need
- Special impairment-related work expenses that you pay for out of pocket
- Home energy assistance
- Disaster assistance
While these are the most common exceptions, a complete list of exclusions can be found here. Once these factors are taken into consideration, your countable income will be calculated and your benefits will be determined based on financial need.
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