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Effect of PASS on SSI Benefits

A PASS is meant to be a flexible tool to allow individuals with disabilities to either raise their SSI amount or become eligible for SSI, in order to obtain items or services that would help them return to work or increase their ability to support themselves. A PASS gives additional SSI income now to help individuals become less dependent on SSI at the end of the PASS.

How it Works:

The SSI amount is increased (or individuals are made eligible for SSI when they would not be under the regular SSI rules), by excluding certain income or assets (also called resources) which would have to be counted under the regular SSI rules. Income and resources, which normally would reduce SSI or prevent eligibility can be ignored if they are listed in the PASS and used towards occupational objectives. The extra SSI helps pay for their other living expenses (i.e. food, clothing, and shelter).

The income and/or resources set aside in a PASS are not counted in determining eligibility for SSI or in calculating the amount of the SSI benefit that individuals will receive. In determining SSI eligibility, individuals must meet an income and resources test. If their income (including earnings and unearned income such as Title II) and/or resources are too high, they will not be eligible for SSI. However, by excluding this income and/or resources in a PASS, individuals could they meet the income and resources test, thus potentially qualifying for SSI. Likewise, individuals already receiving SSI can maintain or increase their SSI cash benefit by excluding income/resources in a PASS to be used in reaching their employment goal.

Individuals who have both earned and unearned income, can set aside either or both of these incomes to establish or increase SSI cash benefits.

Earned Income:

If individuals who receive SSI were to go to work, their new earnings would result in the SSI check being reduced. Recipients= SSI checks would normally be reduced by the earnings minus allowable exclusions (known as the countable earned income). By setting aside new earnings that would normally reduce the SSI check, individuals are provided an opportunity to purchase the goods and services needed to work.

Unearned Income:

Individuals who have only unearned income in the form of Title II or another type of pension may also benefit from the PASS work incentive. Depending on the amount of their countable unearned income, individuals may not be eligible for SSI, or if eligible be receiving a reduced SSI check (i.e., would not be receiving the maximum FBR.) By setting aside a portion or all of this countable unearned income in the PASS, individuals may become eligible for SSI or increase the amount of the SSI check they are currently receiving.


If individuals have resources that exceed the resource limit for SSI, these resources may be set aside in the PASS as well. Resources can be anything that is owned, including bank accounts, real estate, or personal property. In summary, a PASS can be established by setting aside one or more of the following to achieve a vocational goal: earned income (wages, self-employment, certain sick pay, royalties and or honoraria); unearned income (Title II or other types of benefits, or other types of monetary support); and/or resources. The PASS enables individuals to recoup some or all of the expenses paid for under the PASS.

In some cases, the extra SSI generated by a PASS will match the amount being spent in a PASS, so that the cost of the PASS is completely covered by the SSI increase. However, each PASS situation must be computed separately to find out. Even when the PASS does not replace the money spent dollar for dollar, there may be other factors which make a PASS advantageous, such as allowing Medicaid eligibility and the opportunity for people with disabilities to self-direct the vocational rehabilitation process. The long term benefits of a successful PASS, both financial and personal, may be worth an investment now.

For Further Information, Contact:

Susan O'Mara


Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
6401 Security Blvd.
Room 4-C-5 Annex
Baltimore, MD 21235

Social Security has a toll-free number that operates from 7AM to 7PM, Monday to Friday: 1-800-772-1213 If you have a touch-tone phone, recorded information and services are available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call the toll-free "TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday.