One issue that often confuses clients is that the program known as "disability" is really made up two different programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI is available to workers who have made enough money to pay taxes into the program, while SSI is open to those who have never worked or who have not paid enough into SSDI.
While SSDI has no income limits to qualify, SSI has a specific list of requirements. You can own too many assets to qualify for SSI, and even how much your spouse makes can affect whether you're eligible for SSI, while spousal income has no bearing on SSDI.
As of 2017, SSI payments are capped at $735 per month for individuals.
A couple's monthly benefit limit, if one or both spouses are receiving SSI, is $1,103. However, the Social Security Administration uses a complicated formula to come up with this number.
The first $65-85 of a spouse's monthly income can be deducted from the spouse's income. The remainder is then cut in half, and "deemed" to the spouse receiving SSI, meaning that this is the number that actually determines what they'll receive in SSI benefits, in anything.
In addition, $367 in monthly income per minor child can be deducted from the spouse's income.
That's a lot to take in, so here's an example:
Let's say you're applying for SSI and your husband makes $2,000 per month and you have two minor children living at home.
At first glance, this seems like you won't receive anything for SSI, as it's well over the $1,103 limit.
However, having two children would bring your husband's deemable income down to $1,266, and that number is further cut in half. The result would be that you would still receive about $500 per month in SSI benefits.
The issue of spousal income and SSI benefits is one of the trickier parts of Social Security law, so if you're worried about how your spouse's income will affect your benefits, it's best to consult with a disability attorney before filing your SSI application.