Question of the Month: Can Your Living Arrangements Affect the Amount of Your Disability Benefit?

August 2, 2019

Where you live can, in fact, impact the size of your monthly Social Security disability benefit check, but it depends on which disability program you are eligible for.

There are two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance, which is known as SSDI, and Supplemental Security Income, commonly referred to as SSI. SSDI pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are disabled, and you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes recently enough. Your living arrangements generally have no effect on SSDI benefits.

SSI, on the other hand, is based on financial need. The Social Security Administration says, “It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income.” Whether or not you qualify for SSI and the amount of your monthly benefit will be based on your income, assets and resources. If you live in a home that you own or rent, your SSI benefits usually will not be affected, though there are always exceptions. However, if you are living in someone else’s home, or someone else pays for your living arrangements, then your benefits could be reduced.

The Social Security Administration takes the position that free shelter or shelter at a reduced cost (or even free or reduced cost food) is just another form of income—in-kind income. Since, as we mentioned above, income is a determining factor in SSI benefits, the SSA may subtract this in-kind income from your monthly benefit payments.