State Assistance Quandary
January 22, 2011 2:59 PM   Subscribe

How can we complete my application for SSI when my husband just inherited a few thousand dollars?

I've been disabled for more than ten years, always hopeful that the next treatment would be a cure. When the second of two brain surgeries failed to correct my condition and the doctors gave no other options we decided that we should apply for Social Security disability. In all the years since I last worked we just barely scraped by, surviving pretty much by faith. Last week we learned after a long wait that I was approved for SSI. At the same time my husband's sister passed away and left assets equaling about $16,000 to my husband and his brother. The estate is in probate as we're scheduled to meet with the SS official next week to show them our assets. When everyone is paid from the estate we're still going to end up with far more than the $2,000 allowed by SSI rules. Someone has suggested that we "buy down" our account with items we need but we're so accustomed to being poor that it's very hard to give up our nest egg in this way, especially when we might need it to pay for a future treatment that could make me well. Our health insurance just expired and we have no means to get any other, have been scrambling to get our meds taken care of and our only income, DH's unemployment, will end in April so things feel quite tenuous. If I'm accepted I will have Medicaid but we'll need insurance for DH. Is there anything we can legitimately do to make sure that, if we're denied, we have a little to live on until we can re-apply?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't think that Social Security Disability was means-tested.

Also, if you are on Social Security Disability, you are eligible for Medicare, which also isn't means tested.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:02 PM on January 22, 2011

Could you pre-pay your rent for some months/years?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:20 PM on January 22, 2011

SSI is not the same thing as SSD, and, yes, SSI has a very low asset limit. (Also, people on SSD aren't eligible for Medicare for 24 months.) OP, you should go to and call free legal service providers in your area. This should be a fairly basic question for an attorney who handles SSI cases regularly.
posted by Mavri at 3:30 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chocolate Pickle, it's SSI, not Social Security Disabilty.
posted by dilettante at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2011

i'm an attorney who handles ssi cases regularly. but i am NOT your attorney.

the short answer is you have to spend it. i concur that you should find legal aid in your area to assist you.
posted by timory at 3:38 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

eek, sorry, i don't know why i missed your reticence to spend.

sadly, spending down is a big problem for people and your predicament is upsettingly common.

some info that hopefully will help:

1) the resource limit is actually $3,000 when it is a recipient + spouse. (the fact that this number has stayed the same since 1989 is another problem to discuss another day)

2) check out this link for potential resource exclusions

3) have you considered refusing the inheritance and/or donating the money or giving it as a gift to other family? i'd definitely take a look at these POMS provisions to help you out:
what SSA is looking for when you spend down
trusts as exclusions

4) BE CAREFUL SPENDING DOWN (even though this is probably your only option). "If an individual gives away resources or sells resources for less than fair market value (FMV), there is a rebuttable presumption that the resources were transferred for the purpose of establishing or maintaining eligibility for SSI."
posted by timory at 4:00 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know the rules at all, but can you deposit the check and then take it all out as cash?
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:14 PM on January 22, 2011

cashing all the money is a big no no. i mean, you can do it, but they are still going to count as resources/assets and if you stash them that's a crime as far as i know.
posted by timory at 4:24 PM on January 22, 2011

You don't have any debt to pay down?
posted by grouse at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2011

The estate will be in probate for a while, so there is no need to report this as income now. The whole idea of probate is to make sure no other potential heirs or debtors come out of the woodwork, so that if they do, the estate will pay them off before paying out to inheritors. "When everyone is paid off" could be a year or more.

That being said, see if your brother-in-law is willing to let your husband rebuke his part of the inheritance, giving brother-in-law 100% of the estate, and then putting your husband's 50% into a trust in brother-in-law's name. A lawyer can help you structure a possible estate settlement in this way; it's not too unusual.

I'm sorry for your family's loss.
posted by juniperesque at 5:43 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

>it's very hard to give up our nest egg in this way

People on SSI or on Medicaid don't get to have nest eggs. That's just the way it is.
posted by megatherium at 6:06 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

cashing all the money is a big no no. i mean, you can do it, but they are still going to count as resources/assets and if you stash them that's a crime as far as i know.

Oops! Don't do that then. Sorry OP!
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2011

IANAL, and I don't know how legal this is, but I know a woman who was in a similar situation, except in her case it was a divorce settlement from a decade earlier. She bought a trailer, in a park. Where I live (U.P. of MI), you can buy a trailer in a park for a few hundred dollars up to around $10,000 for nice one. This cut her living expenses considerably. She was already getting food stamps and Medicaid, and, if I recall correctly, Section 8, though I'm not sure if she was able to keep Section 8 after buying the trailer. She had to pay her electric bill and her heat bill, and lot rent (which included water and property taxes). I think somehow Section 8 covered part/most of this, and I know that she rarely paid anything on her utilities out of pocket, if she did get behind the same agency that gave her food stamps covered the utilities in arrears.

She was able to live pretty decently on SSI, because her expenses were so low. She paid almost nothing, month to month, for her housing, her food and medical care were covered, and she had some cash from the SSI. Not a fabulous lifestyle, but not squalor, either.
posted by Leta at 7:51 PM on January 22, 2011

I am not your lawyer but I am a lawyer who deals with this stuff everyday. Some of the advice you have received in this thread is potentially very wrong. The way that SSA looks at this, under state law, the property may already be countable to you as an asset, even though the estate has not been probated yet. If that is the case, renouncing the inheritence may be seen as a transfer of assets that would be penalized. Get sound advice from an expert in SSI in your community. Legal Aid is a good place to start.

POMS on unprobated esates

POMS on resource transfers
posted by pasici at 8:36 AM on January 23, 2011

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