Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

1-800-976-6728 OR
(MN RELAY – 711)

SSI needs-based benefits provide a minimum income level for individuals who have limited resources with little or no income, and who are blind, aged or disabled.

The SSI payment is designed to bring a person’s income up to a certain minimum level. People who receive SSI can have earnings and still receive SSI payments. SSA will consider the extent of your disability, your previous work history, your current earnings, your assets and your age when determining which benefits are appropriate for you. The Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) is the maximum monthly SSI payment: $783 for an individual and $1,175 for a couple in 2020. Only Social Security can determine which programs, if any, you qualify for. If you are not eligible for SSI, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or retirement benefits.

What should I know about SSI?

  • Monthly SSI payments fluctuate with increases and decreases in earnings, based on a set formula. SSI calculates payments based on the money received each month.
  • People who receive SSI are also eligible for Medical Assistance (MA) health care coverage at no cost.
  • It is possible to earn enough to reduce your SSI check to $0 and still be eligible for MA at no cost. (See 1619b)
  • You do not need a prior work history to receive SSI.
  • SSI is the only program administered by SSA that has an asset limit ($2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple).
  • The start and stop of work, even small changes in income, need to be reported to your local SSA office to prevent overpayments and underpayments.
  • The rules for SSI are very different than those for SSDI. Be sure you know which benefit you receive!

Additional resources:


Impairment Related Work Expenses

Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) is a work incentive available to individuals who receive SSDI and/or SSI. An IRWE allows certain expenses, necessary to go to work, to be disregarded from the amount of earnings counted by Social Security Administration (SSA). An IRWE expense must be:

  • Paid for out of your own pocket and not reimbursed by any other source
  • Related to a serious health condition
  • Necessary in order to work
  • Approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA)

Possible IRWE expenses:

  • Attendant care costs in certain situations
  • Modification costs for vehicles and other items
  • Transportation costs in certain situations
  • Medical device costs
  • Medication costs
  • Medical service expenses
  • Out-of-pocket job coaching expenses

How can an IRWE help me?

  • If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your SSI check is gradually reduced as your earnings increase. The amount of an approved IRWE is deducted from the earnings counted by SSA, giving you a higher SSI check than you would otherwise receive.
  • The cost of an IRWE may also be used when determining initial eligibility for SSDI and SSI to reduce the individual’s income below SGA.

What else do I need to know?

IRWE rules require specific criteria to be met and specific documentation to be kept. IRWEs need to be approved by your local Social Security office before they can be go into effect.

Plan for Achieving Self-Support

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and have a specific vocational goal, a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) may help you reach it. PASS allows you to save money for school, buying a modified vehicle, paying for new business start-up costs, or other expenses related to becoming self-sufficient. Using a PASS allows you to set aside income from employment and/or your SSDI check in order to save for these special expenses, while continuing to receive an SSI check to pay your daily living expenses.

Basically, a portion of your earnings and/or SSDI cash payment are not considered in calculating the SSI payment. This means your SSI payment will not decrease when you work.

The funds you are using for your PASS must be kept separate from other money and you must keep records of your PASS expenses. Any changes in the amount of money put into your PASS account must be approved by the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a group of staff members, called the PASS Cadre, who can help you understand all the aspects of a PASS. The PASS Cadre coordinates PASS activities from start to finish and can help you in preparing your PASS application.

Your PASS must be in writing and approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using this PASS application form. Another resource is the PASS fact sheet.

Contact your PASS Cadre:

Individuals in Minnesota except those listed below in northwestern Minnesota, call Joani Werner at 1-866-667-6032 ext. 10661.

Individuals living in northwestern Minnesota (Crookston, East Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Moorhead) and eastern North Dakota (Fargo), call Thomas Sprunt at1-866-690-2075 Ext 19506.

Student Earned Income Exclusion: SSI work incentive only

The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) helps students keep more of their SSI check while they gain work experience. The SEIE is available to SSI recipients who meet the following requirements:

  • Under age 22
  • Regularly attending school (some restrictions apply)
  • Receiving SSI payments
  • Working

An SSI recipient who meets these requirements can earn up to $1,900 per month in wages in 2020 before there is any reduction to their SSI check. There is a maximum exclusion of $7,670 per year in 2020.

The Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) is the ideal work incentive for students who work while in school and want to increase work hours during the summer or between semesters.

Example: Andrea is a 20 year old college student and receives $825 per month at her job in the book store and is an SSI recipient.

Monthly Wages


Student Earned Income Exclusion


Countable income for SSI


SSI Federal Benefits Rate (FBR)


Student Earned Income Exclusion


SSI payment using SEIE


Without using the SEIE, Andrea's SSI payment would be reduced to $413 because of her earnings. Andrea will be able to exclude $825 per month through the SEIE for over nine months before she reaches the maximum annual exclusion ($7,670 in 2020).


Blind Work Expenses

Blind Work Expenses (BWEs) are available only to individuals who receive SSI benefits based on blindness. If you are blind, earned income you use to pay for work expenses may not count in calculating your SSI check amount, even if the expense is unrelated to blindness.

Some examples of BWEs are:

  • Guide dog expenses
  • Transportation costs to and from work
  • Federal, state and local income taxes
  • Social Security taxes
  • Attendant care services
  • Visual and sensory aids
  • Translation of materials into Braille
  • Professional association fees and union dues

If you are an SSI recipient and have any BWEs, the cost of these expenses will result in a dollar-for-dollar increase in your SSI payment. (The maximum SSI payment for an individual is $783 in 2020, and $1,175 for a couple in 2020).

What else do I need to know?

BWEs require that specific criteria be met and specific documentation be kept. BWEs also need to be approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA) before they can be considered to be in effect. For rules that apply to individuals who are blind, refer to the SSA website.

1619(b): SSI Work Incentive only

Section 1619(b) allows people on SSI who work to continue receiving Medical Assistance (MA) at no cost, even when their earnings reduce their SSI check to $0. 1619(b) status is available only to SSI recipients.

How can 1619(b) status help me?

  • You can continue to receive Medical Assistance (MA) benefits at no cost even when SSI cash payments stop.
  • If your earned and/or unearned income drops, you may again be eligible for an SSI cash payment without having to reapply for benefits.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least one month prior to accessing 1619(b)
  • Have an SSI payment that must be reduced because of earnings
  • Be disabled
  • Continue to meet the asset requirements $2,000 for individuals, $3,000 for a couple
  • Need MA in order to work
  • Have gross earned income insufficient to replace the cost of the Medical Assistance services you need. (In 2019, Minnesotans on SSI 1619(b) can earn up to $53,658 per year or more if they have high health care expenses.)
  • See this page for Medical Assistance information.