For SSI purposes, not everything an individual receives is considered to be income. Generally, if the item received cannot be used as, or to obtain, food or shelter, it will not be considered as income. For example, if someone pays an individual's medical bills, or offers free medical care, or if the individual receives money from a social services agency that is a repayment of an amount he/she previously spent, that value is not considered income to the individual. In addition, some items that are considered to be income are excluded when determining the amount of an individual's benefit.
Principal earned income exclusions
Principal unearned income exclusions
General earned income exclusion
For 2017, if an individual has only earnings income, then he or she could earn up to $1,555 per month and still be eligible for an SSI benefit. 1/ However, if an individual who is not an SSI recipient has monthly earnings of $1,170 or more in 2017, then the person would be considered to be engaging in substantial gainful activity and would probably not meet initial eligibility requirements for SSI disability benefits (unless he or she is blind or is a child under age 18). A current SSI recipient with earnings of at least $1,170 could retain SSI eligibility, depending on the amount of earnings and other non-medical criteria.
1 This applies only in cases where the individual is either unmarried or is married and their spouse has no earnings. The amount of maximum earnings that parents of an eligible child is generally higher.