What Happens to my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid Benefits if I Travel?

By Cameron Lindahl M.S. and Sara Toor M.A.

Without providing proper notice, recipients of SSI may terminate eligibility if he/she decides to travel.  This includes taking trips within and outside of the United States.  POMS SI 00501.410 states “an individual is not eligible for SSI benefits for any month during all of which he/she is outside the United States.”  However, the SSI recipient must be out of the country for 30 consecutive days and the day of departure and arrival is not counted towards those days. Please note, there are exceptions for blind and disabled children with a parent stationed outside of the U.S (SI 00501.415).

How would the Social Security Administration find out if a recipient of SSI travels out of the country for longer than 30 days?The Social Security Administration has a few ways of determining if a recipient of SSI is out of the country and that includes:

  • The recipient’s lack of response to requests for information to update a record for a medical continuing disability review (CDR);
  • The presence of prior periods of ineligibility on the SSI record due to absences from the U.S.;
  • The supplemental security income record (SSR) shows direct deposit to a foreign bank and the individual has a U.S. address; or
  • Relatives or other third parties respond to requests for information and ask for appointments to be rescheduled (SI 00501.410).

Though a recipient of SSI may plan a vacation to avoid the above events, the consequences could lead to his/her eligibility being terminated.  It is important to notify his/her SSA representative of travel or he/she may be required upon returning to the U.S. to provide evidence to substantiate their travel arrangements. This may include copies of plane tickets and passports, but could also involve signed statements from U.S. residents who have knowledge of the recipient’s whereabouts. 
For practical scenarios on how SSI will be impacted when traveling, please refer to SI 00501.410 section F

What about Medicaid?
There are three categories the Social Security Administration uses to classify how SSI and Medicaid are managed: 1634 states (34 states and D.C.), 209(b) (9 states), and SSI criteria states (7 states). Please use the following link to see an exhaustive list of all states: SI 01715.020.   In 1634 states, a recipient’s eligibility for Medicaid is tied to his/her eligibility for SSI. In other words, if a recipient’s eligibility for SSI is terminated, their Medicaid will also be terminated. In 209(b) and SSI criteria states the rules vary by state. It is for this reason that CPT Institute requires a legal opinion from a qualified Special Needs Planning Attorney if a Trust Beneficiary of a Special Needs Trust wishes to travel for longer than 30 consecutive days.  If a recipient of SSI and/or Medicaid is not a Trust Beneficiary with CPT Institute, we strongly recommend that he/she locates a qualified Special Needs Planning attorney using one of the two websites below before planning a trip or vacation:

​Another important factor to consider before a Medicaid recipient arranges a trip outside of the U.S. is to check with his/her Medicaid representative, or a Special Needs Planning attorney, to see if Medicaid coverage is available in an emergency out of his/her state of residence.  Out of state coverage varies by state.

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.

Further Reading:
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.