Gifts and Social Security Benefits

In Benefits Articles, Featured, News, Resources by eri

Tis’ the season for festive celebrations – and gifts! During the holidays, it’s a good idea to learn how gifts are viewed by Social Security for the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) programs.

Gifts Don’t Affect SSDI At All

Let’s start with the easy one: SSDI. Gifts do not affect SSDI at all! You don’t even have to report them to Social Security. So, if the only Social Security payment you get is SSDI (or a Childhood Disability or Disabled Widow Benefit) you can let Santa know that there’s no limit to what he can leave under your tree.

Your SSI Eligibility and Payment Amount May Be Affected by Gifts

On the other hand, SSI is a needs-based program. That means that your SSI eligibility and payment amount are affected by income. Social Security might count a gift as income - depending on what the gift is. If you receive cash or food, they typically count as income.

Social Security won’t count the following gifts when deciding SSI eligibility or payments:

  • Personal items and other things that will not count toward the $2,000 asset limit the month after you get them. This would include a car, if it is the only one you have. So, put it on your list!
  • The sweater from grandma and the new TV from your parents also are not counted.
  • Up to $60 cash per calendar quarter. This cash is excluded only if:
  • you get it just once from a single source;
  • you did not get a gift of cash the month before or after, even if those months are in a different calendar quarter. So, cash you get for Christmas won’t be excluded if you also get a cash gift in January.
  • Money used for necessary educational expenses, like tuition.
  • Any commercial transportation ticket for travel in the U.S. and U.S. territories.

Report to Social Security any cash or food gifts you receive. They will determine the nature of the gift and apply the appropriate rules.

Gifts and the SSI Redetermination Review

Social Security asks a routine question about gifts during the SSI redetermination review, which usually happens once a year. If you say that you received a gift, Social Security will normally accept a signed estimate of the value unless there is reason to doubt the estimate.


Contact your local social security office with specific questions about gifts and your benefits, and to report any cash or food gifts you receive. Happy holidays!

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