A Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiary’s payment amount is based on a number of factors including their living arrangement and other sources of income. To calculate a benefits check, Social Security uses an income formula which includes many incentives that increase the financial benefits of work.
Income Formula: Base SSI Rate – Total Countable Unearned Income – Total Countable Earned Income = Adjusted SSI Payment
“Unearned Income” includes income from entitlement programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Unemployment Insurance (UI), as well as gifts and in-kind support. After a $20 general income exclusion is applied, every $1 of unearned income received causes a $1 reduction to the SSI payment.
“Earned Income” includes pay from work and earnings from self-employment. A variety of exclusions and deductions are applied to ensure that working is always financially beneficial. As a result, for every $1 earned, the SSI payment will be reduced by less than $0.50.
The income formula is further described below, with links to detailed information on each Work Incentive rule.
Step One: Determine Base SSI Rate
The base payment payment rate for an individual is based on how Social Security classifies their “Living Arrangement.” Refer to the page Living Arrangements for information on how this is determined.
Step Two: Calculate Total Countable Unearned Income
- Gross Unearned Income
- Minus General Income Exclusion ($20)
- Equals Total Countable Unearned Income
Step Three: Calculate Total Countable Earned Income
- Gross Earned Income
- Minus Student Earned Income Exclusion
- Minus Individual Development Account Contribution
- Minus General Income Exclusion ($20) if it has not been applied to unearned income
- Minus Earned Income Exclusion ($65)
- Minus Impairment Related Work Expenses
- Divide by 2
- Minus Blind Work Expenses
- Equals Total Countable Earned Income
Step Four: Calculate Adjusted SSI Payment
- SSI Base Rate
- Minus Total Countable Unearned Income
- Minus Total Countable Earned Income
- Equals Adjusted SSI Payment