Can I Purchase a Car While on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Many people who are disabled and collect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) maintain the ability to drive, despite their conditions.  At some point, the person with disabilities may need to purchase a new car, and since their benefits are needs-based, they may wonder what their restrictions are and if they can purchase a car while on Supplemental Security Income.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is not to be confused with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is a disability benefit for workers who have accumulated enough work credits.  For people collecting this type of benefit, there is no limit to how many cars you can own.

SSI, however, is a benefit for low-income individuals who have either never worked or have not accumulated enough work credits (or enough work credits in the time necessary) to qualify for SSDI.  If you are receiving this benefit, there are certain limitations that apply when purchasing vehicles.

Specifically, an SSI beneficiary’s household is allowed to own only one (1) car, as long as it is used to transport the beneficiary or anyone in the beneficiary’s household.  The vehicle can be of any make and model and can be of any value.

If the disabled individual has a Special Needs Trust, it may be worthwhile to have the trust own the vehicle, rather than put it in the beneficiary’s name.   If the person with disabilities is on the title of the car, he or she will also have to be on the insurance.  If someone else is driving the car on behalf of the person with disabilities (like a caregiver or primary driver), there could be issues with the insurance in the event of an accident.  Having the car owned by a Special Needs Trust can help lower such risks.

A Special Needs Trust can also hold funds for maintenance, upgrades and future modifications for the car, without such expenditures jeopardizing the person’s access to their SSI benefits.

The bottom line is that when you collect SSI benefits, what may seem like a “routine” purchase like a new car must be carefully considered and done in consultation with a Special Needs Planning Attorney to ensure that you are not violating any rules or holding title to any asset in the wrong way.

If you wold like to purchase a car while on Supplemental Security Income and need help working through your options while collecting SSI benefits or creating a Special Needs Trust for a loved one, we can help.  Please contact the Law Office of Sheri R. Abrams at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.