Q & A

Ask Rusty – Will Opening a Joint Account Affect My Disabled Father’s “SSI?”

Dear Rusty: I live in Michigan and my senior disabled father lives in rural Kentucky. His income is part Social Security and part disability. I talked to a local credit union near his home and explained I would like to open a joint account. They said as long as he comes in with his ID it’s possible. My question is – will adding money to our joint account affect his SSI and disability? Signed: Caring Daughter

Dear Caring Daughter: First, I need to clarify that there are two types of disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The acronym “SSI” normally refers to “Supplemental Security Income” which is a benefit for disabled senior adults (and children) who have very little income and very few assets. “SSI” is not Social Security income; rather it is a general benefit program jointly administered by the Social Security Administration and the State in which your father lives. In contrast, Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits are earned from working and are not affected by the recipient’s assets, as are “SSI” benefits. 

From what you’ve written, I assume that your father may have a small Social Security retirement benefit (because he has reached his full retirement age and SSDI isn’t available after full retirement age), and he is also receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. If this is the case, although your father’s Social Security retirement benefit would not be affected by opening a joint account at the credit union, his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefit likely will be. As co-owner of the joint account your assets would count towards your father’s “SSI” asset limit, and your assets, as well as any “in kind” assistance you otherwise provide, would likely put your father over the SSI income/asset eligibility limit and result in his SSI benefits being terminated.

So, although the credit union may be willing to open a joint account for you and your father, I’m afraid that would result in your father losing his SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits, leaving him with only his small Social Security retirement benefit. You may wish to review the SSI eligibility information at this link: www.ssa.gov/ssi/eligibility or you could contact the Social Security Administration and ask to speak with someone experienced with Supplemental Security Income matters. For clarity, “SSI” assistance is jointly administered by the Social Security Administration and each State’s Human Services department, and assistance available varies somewhat depending on the recipient’s state of residence. Thus, since your father lives in Kentucky, you might also contact that state’s human services agency to discuss your options for providing remote assistance to your father without jeopardizing his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit:  www.chfs.ky.gov/Pages/contact.aspx

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at [email protected].

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