The Supplemental Security Income program provides benefits to applicants who don't have the work credits to be eligible for Social Security disability. You earn work credits through payroll taxes levied on your paycheck; on average, you need five years of employment in the last 10 years to apply for regular disability. When applying for SSI, you are limited on the amount of household resources you can own, including assets such as savings bonds.
SSI Benefits and Family Resources
The SSI program benefits low-income applicants, as well as minor children who haven't worked and aren't eligible for disability. When you apply for SSI, Social Security requires a full account of your household resources, including cash on hand and savings. Savings bonds, CDs and money market funds count as available resources, whether owned by you or someone else in your household.
As of early 2013, the resource limit for a married SSI applicant stood at $3,000. (For a single person, the resource limit was $2,000.) Social Security counts not only savings, but assets such as cars, motorcycles, jewelry, collectibles and second homes. A savings bond in the name of your spouse is included as a family asset, because if your wife cashes in the savings bond, then the cash becomes available for use. If your marriage legally ends or you separate and your wife leaves the household, then her assets are no longer counted toward the resource limit.
If you are approved for SSI, the resources you have available upon approval do not affect your standard monthly SSI benefit, which was $710 for individuals and $1,066 for married couples (both disabled) as of 2013. However, Social Security offsets any income, whether it's earned through wages or unearned through a program such as unemployment or workers' compensation. After you begin receiving benefits from SSI, you must report any significant changes in income or resources (such as an inheritance or gambling winnings).
Social Security does not count your wife's Series EE or Series I savings bonds as a resource if she can't yet redeem them. The US Treasury, as of 2013, did not allow redemption of these bonds until at least one year after purchase. E bonds that no longer earn interest are still liquid, meaning you can redeem them and convert them into cash, so they are a countable resource.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.