Deeming: How an Individual’s Income & Assets Affect Another’s Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

By: Cameron Lindahl, M.S. & Sara Toor, M.A.
Revised March 2018

What is Deeming and Why Does it Exist?
The most common form of deeming is referred to as Parental deeming.  This is when a parent’s income and/or assets are counted towards the child’s resources when applying or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This occurs when the child is under the age of 18 and is living in the same household as his/her parents.  Parental deeming still applies if the child is attending school away from the household temporarily and comes home on the weekends, for holidays, school vacations, and/or is still subject to parental control (SI 01320.500).  Additionally, an adopted parent and step-parent’s income if living in the same household still counts towards a child’s eligibility for SSI.  It’s important to note however, that if a child is receiving SSI his/her income and resources do not deem to the parent even though a parent’s income and resources deem to their child (SI 01320.100). 

According to the Social Security Administrations (SSA) policies as defined by the Program Operating Manual System (POMS), it can be inferred that Parental Deeming exists because it is the responsibility of a parent to care for their child.  However, the SSA recognizes the complexity of these situations, and in a later section we will discuss when parental deeming does not apply.
Another form of deeming is Sponsor-to-Alien deeming (SI 00502.200).  This occurs when an individual sponsors an alien who is entering the United States.  Unlike parental deeming, this form of deeming applies regardless of whether the Alien lives with their sponsor.  However, the rules regarding deemed income and assets are similar to parental deeming, as further described below.  To understand when an alien is eligible for SSI please refer to the POMS labeled SI 00502.200 and the corresponding POMS based on when the Alien applied for immigrate visas or adjustment of status (SI 00502.100SI 00502.215).

What Income and Assets Deem to the Child or Alien?
A parent’s or sponsor’s earned income, unearned income, and assets deem to a child. For a single individual, all resources over $2,000 dollars deems, while for married individuals, resources over $3,000 dollars collectively deems to their children or sponsored alien (SI 01110.003).  As mentioned previously, this includes the resources from a step parent, adopted parent living, or a Sponsor’s spouse in the same household.

Earned income is interpreted as wages and includes net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties, and sheltered workshop payments (SI 00810.005). Unearned income is interpreted intuitively as any money received that is not earned and includes gifts, annuities, rents, interest income, and prizes (Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Income — 2017 Edition). However, pensions and burial funds are excluded for deeming purposes (SI 01330.220).  A parent’s or sponsor’s assets also deem to the child or alien.  Some examples include: owning more than one vehicle or residence, life insurance, savings accounts, and any item that could be exchanged for cash and/or used for food or shelter (i.e. jewelry, collectables, etc.).  For an exhaustive list please consult Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI Resources — 2017 Edition.

There are certain resources exempt from deeming and include, but are not limited to grants, scholarships, fellowships, public income maintenance payments, foster care payments, food stamps, tax refunds on real property or food, disaster assistance, etc. To see the exhaustive list please visit SI 01320.100 Items Not Included in Deeming – General.

To calculate the amount deemed to child from ineligible parent please consult: SI 01320.500 Deeming of Income from Ineligible Parent(s).

When Does Deeming Not Apply?
For Parental Deeming, deeming does not apply once the child reaches the age of 18 even if he/she is still living in the parent’s home.  However, restrictions still apply if the child is receiving in-kind support from his/her parents (Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Living Arrangements). Additionally, deeming does not apply in the following circumstances:

  • A disabled child receives a reduced SSI benefit while in a medical treatment facility; and
  • The child is eligible for Medicaid under a State home care plan; and
  • Deeming would otherwise cause ineligibility for SSI benefits.

For Sponsor-to-Alien deeming some exceptions apply for those who applied for immigrate visas or adjustment of status after December 19th, 1997 commonly referred to as the “battery and indigence exceptions to deeming” (SI 00502.200).  Directly barrowed from the POMS (SI 00502.200) , deeming would not apply in the following circumstances:

  • Battery Exception
    • a qualified alien, a qualified alien’s child, or a qualified alien child’s parent has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States, and
    • there is a substantial connection between the battery and the need for benefits, and
    • the individual subject to such battery or cruelty does not live in the same household with the individual responsible for the cruelty or battery (SI 00502.200).
  • Indigence Exception
    • sponsor-to-alien deeming is suspended for 12 months when a determination is made that an alien would, in the absence of SSI payments, be unable to obtain food and shelter (SI 00502.200,  SI 00502.280). 

A Child Received SSI, but his/her SSI was Just Suspended?
SSI is typically suspended because income and/or assets went over the resource limits.  With minor children, this can occur if the child’s countable income (not including deemed income) is over the Federal $30 payment limit (SI 01310.201).  Though alarming, it is important to know that they will be reinstated as soon as the recipient is back below the resource limits.  It becomes a larger concern if SSI is suspended for longer than 11 months.  At 12 months of suspension without an appeal, the system automatically terminates the record (SI 02301.205).  A new application would need to be submitted to reinstate benefits.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided by CPT Institute is for informational purposes only and is intended to be used as a non-legal guide prior to consultation with an attorney familiar with your specific legal situation. CPT Institute is not engaged in the practice of law or in rendering legal advice or counsel. No such legal advice or counseling is either expressly or impliedly intended. This form is not a substitute for the advice or counsel of an attorney. If you require legal advice, you should seek the services of an attorney. © 2018 CPT Institute All rights reserved.

Urbatsch, K., & Fuller, M. (2016). Administering the California special needs trust: A guide for trustees and those who advise them (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: IUniverse.