When you’re facing a disability, income matters. It can help you cover important expenses and take care of day-to-day needs. That’s why the Social Security Administration offers programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

But these programs come with strict rules about how your income and your spouse’s income could affect any benefits. And in some cases, if your spouse has too much income, Social Security could reduce your benefits or deny them completely.

Here is how spousal income affects SSDI and SSI differently and the ways that your spouse’s income could impact you.


SSDI spousal incomeSSDI is an essential source of income for many disabled people. And the good news is that your spouse’s income generally doesn’t affect any SSDI benefits you may receive. That’s because SSDI is a program to help people who have already paid into the system. This means that your SSDI is based on your prior earnings and not on your spouse’s income.

But SSI is a different story, and your spouse’s income could affect your access to SSI. SSI exists to help low-income individuals who need support for a disability. It provides income assistance and covers people who are over 65, blind, or disabled and who have limited income or resources. Benefits are not based on your prior income or work. That can make it important for individuals who haven’t been able to work and earn credits towards SSDI in the past.

Since SSI is income-based, the Social Security Administration may deem that you have access to some of your spouse’s income for SSI benefit eligibility purposes. The amount of income they count will depend on factors such as whether your partner qualifies as a spouse and whether you have minor children in your household. The Social Security “deeming” process can be complicated and confusing, especially if you haven’t had to deal with it before.

Who Qualifies as a Spouse?

One important question for SSI deeming is whether the person you’re with qualifies as a spouse. Under Social Security Administration rules, two people are considered married if:

  • They are living in the same household and are married;
  • They are holding themselves out as married; or
  • One person is entitled, as a spouse, to the other’s Social Security benefits

The Social Security Administration takes the question of who qualifies as a spouse seriously since it can have a huge impact on your benefits and eligibility. If you have questions about whether your partner or household member qualifies as a spouse for SSI purposes, a disability lawyer can review your situation and answer your questions.

What Is Deeming?

spousal income social security disabilityDeeming is the Social Security Administration’s process to determine whether your spouse’s income counts as yours for SSI eligibility purposes. This process can be complex, especially if both spouses are pursuing SSI benefits. But in cases where only one spouse is seeking SSI, the process usually follows a few steps. According to the National Center on Law & Elder Rights:

  • First, the Social Security Administration determines your spouse’s income.
  • Then they subtract specific amounts for each child in the household.
  • After that, they compare the remaining income to the eligibility limits for SSI.
  • Finally, they look at whether the couple qualifies for eligibility. They can use any SSI deductions to reduce the spouse’s income for eligibility.

Keep in mind that in 2021, the SSI income limit for a couple is $1,191 per month. That means if your spouse makes more than that, your benefits may be reduced, or you may not be eligible. That’s why it’s so important to understand the deeming process and any deductions or exceptions that may apply.

Contact Us Today

If you need to pursue a Social Security disability claim and have questions about how your spouse’s income could affect you, get in touch with Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. now. For 40 years, we’ve represented disabled individuals and helped them seek the benefits they need. We work with disability claims every day, and we know how to navigate the maze of paperwork and regulations.

Your benefits matter, so turn to Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. for the experienced and knowledgeable support you deserve. For a free consultation about your disability claim, give us a call at 516-496-0400 or contact us online now.

Last Updated : August 18, 2023
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