The federal income supplement program, supplemental security income (SSI), is a program funded by general tax revenues designed to help aged, blind, and disabled persons who have little or no income. Furthermore, SSI provides money to individuals living with these disability to meet basic human needs, such as for food, clothing, and shelter.
First and foremost, going to school does not affect a person’s supplemental security income disability status. When an individual is approved for SSI, their approval depends primarily on their medical condition. Attending college or university does not alter approval for SSI. Actually, SSI disability gives a benefit to individuals attending school with a Student Earned Income exclusion (SEIE).
What is the Student Earned Income Exclusion?
The student earned income provision allows persons under the age of 22 who are regularly attending school to exclude earnings from their gross income. In January 2015, the amount of income students were able to exclude from their SSI benefit program went up to $7,180 a year.
Earned income, as defined by SSI, is “wages, net earnings from self–employment, certain royalties, honoraria, and sheltered workshop payments.” Unearned income is any income that is not earned, such as Social Security benefits, pensions, interest income, and money from friends and relatives.
Income is important to the SSI program because, generally speaking, the more countable income you have, the less SSI benefits you will receive. If your income is above the allowable limit, you cannot receive SSI benefits whatsoever.
This is why the student earned income exclusion is extremely beneficial. Income up to $7,180 per year will not be counted towards the income generator cap rule of SSI. Therefore, students may work or receive other forms of income while attending school and not have their social security benefits diminished. This exclusion encourages young adults living with disabilities to continue their education.
Who Qualifies As a Student?
In order to qualify as a student, an applicant must take one or more courses of study and attend classes in one of the following:
- In a college or university attending classes for at least 8 hours per week;
- In grades 7 – 12 attending school at least 12 hours per week;
- In some form of training or technical course to prepare for employment for at least 12 hours per week, or 15 hours if the course involves shop practice.
- In home school for at least 12 hours per week;
- If the student attends one of the categories above, but for less time because of a disability or illness beyond the student’s control, then he or she may still qualify.
These categories, outlined by the SSI, are to be used mostly as guidelines, and the amount of school an applicant attends may be balanced with the degree of disability. A person who is homebound because of a disability may be considered a student if he or she studies a course or courses given by a school and has a home visitor or tutor from the school.
Why Else Is The Student Earned Income Exclusion Important?
Another reason why the SEIE income exclusion for disabled students is important is because severely disabled individuals may be receiving compensation from parents and other relatives. For example, a severely disabled 20-year old who is being home schooled 12 hours per week would not have to be kicked out of the supplemental security income benefits program after they receive money from a relative. Rather, the money (let’s say it is put into their savings account by a relative as a “stipend”) would be able to fall under the exclusion up to the $7,128 per year maximum.
In order to avoid overpayments in SSI benefits, individuals should report monthly earnings to the social Security Administration. It is also important to keep the Social Security Administration aware of any change in hours of your school attendance. If a student begins earning more than the monthly exclusion, it is important to keep up to date with your SSI records so that money is not owed to the Social Security Administration by the end of the year.
If a substantial change in health leads to a student no longer being able to attend classes, make sure to contact the Social Security Administration to clarify if any other exceptions to the SEIE exclusion may apply.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your Supplemental Secondary Income benefits, contact Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak and speak with an attorney that you can trust. You can arrange for a free and private legal consultation by calling (479) 316-0438 or contact us online today.
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