Can You Own Property and Be On Disability in Pennsylvania?

Thousands of Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security Disability benefits to pay for necessary expenses. The Social Security Administration (SSA) manages two distinct programs that provide monthly benefits to disabled individuals. The extent that you can own property and maintain your benefits depends on which program governs your disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) does not place any property restrictions on those receiving monthly benefits. You could own your home, as well as a vacation property at the shore or in the Poconos. However, if your benefits are provided through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA will consider your property when determining your eligibility. SSI is a need-based program, so any resources, including personal property and real estate, could impact your monthly benefits.

Despite the large number of people that require Social Security Disability, the SSA does not make the process easy. Understanding what it takes to qualify and what could negatively impact your benefits in the future could become overwhelming. Our Philadelphia disability lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates have been helping Pennsylvania residents apply for benefits for decades. Call (215) 515-2954 if you have questions about or are applying for SSDI or SSI.

Owning Property While Receiving SSDI Benefits in Pennsylvania

When it comes to the question of owning property and receiving disability benefits, the first thing to understand is that the SSA administers two distinct disability programs.

Social Security Disability Insurance is, as its name implies, an insurance policy for people who have worked and paid into the Social Security system. Because the program is funded through FICA taxes, there are no restrictions on a claimant’s resources. As long as an individual has a qualifying medical impairment, their financial resources will not impact their monthly benefits.

SSI Benefits and Owning Property in Pennsylvania

Supplemental Security Income is another story. SSI is a need-based program funded by the general tax fund. It is intended for individuals over 65, the blind, or people with a qualifying disability and limited income and resources.

When the SSA is examining an SSI application, it is looking to determine if the applicant has a qualifying medical impairment and meets the prerequisite income and resource threshold.

More specifically, for a person to receive SSI payments, they must demonstrate that their economic resources do not exceed $2,000 if they are single or $3,000 for a couple. “Resources” is a broad category that includes the cash and property that could be liquidated to pay for food and shelter. The SSA determines an individual’s benefits on a monthly basis, so any increase in resources for a given month could result in a reduction or elimination of SSI benefits for that month.

What is Considered Property and Resources for Purposes of SSI Benefits

Property and resources are broad terms. Our Pennsylvania disability lawyers will carefully review your assets to help determine what the SSA could consider “countable” income for SSI purposes. Typically, an asset that could be used to obtain shelter or food would be considered a countable resource. However, some notable exceptions are excluded from the SSA’s determination.

Personal Property and Household Goods

Your personal property and household goods are usually not considered countable resources. This includes furniture and appliances. However, if you hold or acquire any personal property as an investment, for example, a collection of rare baseball cards, it will likely be counted as a resource.

Life Insurance

If your life insurance policy has no cash value, such as term life policies, it is exempt from SSI determination. Universal variable and whole life policies with a cash value are counted if the value exceeds $1,500. If a life insurance policy is signed over to a funeral director for the purposed of paying for funeral and burial arrangements, it is not considered countable as long as the reserved funds are irrevocable.

Your Home

Your home is exempt from the SSA’s determination if it is your primary residence. If the property is not your primary residence or if it is used as a source of income, it would be considered a countable resource.

One Automobile

The SSA will permit you to exempt one car for transportation purposes. If an individual owns two cars, the vehicle with the highest value will be exempt, while the lessor value car will be considered a countable resource.

Burial Plots

Burial plots, crypts, caskets, and urns are exempt unless that claimant owns multiple ones. Additionally, up to $1,500 of burial funds per member of your family is also exempt, including any interest that accrues. However, these funds must be set aside in a separate account and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Retirement Funds

Any liquid retirement funds, or funds that can be easily withdrawn for use, could be counted in the SSA’s determination. However, if the funds are not liquid, they are not considered a countable resource.

Funds for Education

The SSA will not include scholarships, educational grants, fellowships, or other financial gifts used for education as a countable resource. However, to qualify for this exemption, the funds must be used to pay for tuition or other qualified educational expenses within nine months of receipt.

Understanding what assets could pose a problem is not always easy. Our Allentown disability lawyers will thoroughly review your property in addition to helping you prove you have a qualifying medical condition.

Pennsylvania Disability Lawyers Helping You Understand Your Benefits

There is very little about Social Security Benefits process that could be described as intuitive. Navigating the complex requirements and ensuring you receive the benefits you are entitled to often requires the assistance of an experienced attorney. At Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates, our team of dedicated West Chester Social Security Disability lawyers are available to help you understand how your property will impact your benefits. Call (215) 515-2954  today to discuss your unique situation.

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