Can I sell assets to qualify for SSI disability?
Should a claimant have too many assets to qualify for SSI, they may be able to sell some assets. They would do this through the Conditional Payments Program. The Social Security Administration will allow claimants to receive SSI benefits for up to nine months while they are trying to sell any excess real estate, and up to three months if they are trying to sell personal property. Any benefits received during this time period are referred to as “conditional benefits.”
The SSA will make contact every three months to ensure that the claimant is truly trying to sell their property. Should a claimant receive any offers, they must inform the SSA of this. Should a claimant turn down an offer, they must be able to explain why that offer was unacceptable. If the value of the subject property is $2,000 or more ($3,000 if married), the claimant will only be contacted by SSA once every six months.
Of course, once that property is sold, the SSA will most likely expect you to repay the conditional benefits using the net proceeds of the sale. This is because the conditional payments are treated as “overpayments,” since the claimant was technically ineligible to receive those benefits due to the value of that asset. One may not have to pay back the entire amount of conditional benefits – this is the case if the amount by which their current resources (factoring in the proceeds of the sale) exceed the SSI limit is less than the amount of conditional payments that the claimant received.
An example: A claimant received 3 months of $500 conditional benefit payments, for a total of $1,500. These payments were conditional because he was attempting to sell his second car for $1000. Taking the $1000 proceeds from the sale of his car, and adding it to his $300 in other assets, this claimant now has $1,300 in assets. His $1,300 in assets is thus less than the total $1,500 that the claimant received in conditional benefit payments, so the SSA will be unlikely to make this individual pay back his entire conditional payments.
Be warned that giving away or transferring assets for less than they are worth in order to qualify for SSI may make you ineligible for up to 36 months. The Social Security Administration will utilize a three-year “look back period” when looking at resource transfers. This includes intangible things such as relatives promising to take care of a claimant in exchange for an item. In their review, the SSA will assume that any transfer made for less than market value was made for the purpose of qualifying for SSI. It is up to the claimant to prove otherwise.
There is an exception to this. Should the SSA find that a claimant gave away or transferred assets for less than market value, the claimant can argue that by not receiving SSI, they would be burdened with “undue hardship.” To prove this burden, a claimant would have to show that they are unable to pay for food or shelter without SSI. They would have to show that without an SSI check, they cannot afford their rent, and that there is no other available affordable housing. Of course the claimant would also have to show that their total available funds are less than the monthly SSI disbursement.