How Often Does SSI Check Your Bank Account?
In 2020 alone, the Social Security Administration (SSA) paid 60 billion dollars in Supplement Security Income (SSI) to about 8 million recipients.
MJ Ellis Disability Law has extensive experience guiding clients through the maze of federal rules and regulations that apply to your SSI claim, including how, when, and why SSI would check your bank account. We’re here to help you understand every part of your SSI benefits and how to set up your accounts to comply with your SSI eligibility.
2022 eligibility for SSI requires a recipient to receive no more than $841 per month in unearned income. For couples who both receive SSI, the maximum unearned income limit is $1,281 per month. Notice that these limits apply only to unearned income. Because a substantial portion of earned income is exempted from being counted by the SSA against the monthly limit, recipients could earn more in some cases.
As we explain in this blog post, SSI can check your bank accounts anywhere from every one year to six years, or when you experience certain life-changing experiences.
The 2022 maximum amount of available financial resources for SSI eligibility remains at $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples. The law requires every SSI recipient to accurately report their income and assets to SSI. Still, in 2020, SSA issued more than $6.8 billion in overpayments. The primary cause of overpayments was the failure of SSI recipients to report resources above the allowable limit.
The Social Security Administration Checks Your Bank Accounts
The SSA has several methods of checking to verify that SSI recipients are accurately reporting their income and available resources. Traditionally, the SSA depended on recipients’ self-reporting and having SSA employees contact financial institutions to inquire about individuals’ accounts.
Now, advancing technology allows the SSA to automatically check the balances in recipients’ bank accounts, and to search a geographical area to find unreported accounts. The Access to Financial Institutions (AFI) process is authorized by each SSI applicant as a condition of SSI benefits eligibility.
The AFI process allows the SSA to verify alleged bank account balances and to find unreported financial resources under the names of recipients and “deemors” (people whose income or resources are deemed by SSA to be available to the SSI recipient).
When And How Often Does SSI Check Your Bank Accounts?
The SSA routinely uses the Access to Financial Institutions (AFI) system and other means to verify bank accounts when certain events occur. They can also check banks and other financial institutions for accounts bearing an SSI recipient’s name when changes in circumstance occur like marriage, moving a residence, and starting, changing, or leaving a part-time job.
When the SSA does check your accounts and assets through the Access to Financial Institutions process, the search for hidden or unknown assets is very thorough. Each SSI recipient is the subject of 10 geographic searches to ensure that any outlying communities’ financial institutions are included in the investigation.
Scheduled Events When SSI Checks Bank Accounts:
Applying for SSI — Every SSI applicant is subject to an AFI bank account search to verify the information reported in the application. Only when the resources detected by the AFI system are under the resource limit will an SSI applicant qualify for benefit payments.
Redetermination of Eligibility — SSI recipients’ cases are periodically reexamined to determine if the person still meets the income and financial resource eligibility limits. The SSA asserts that it checks the financial eligibility of every SSI recipient every 1 to 6 years. This procedure does not necessarily coincide with the Continuing Disability Review (PDR) performed to confirm the recipient still suffers from a qualifying disability. The financial eligibility redeterminations limit the inquiry to information relating to earned and unearned income, bank accounts, and other available resources, deemed income, and living arrangements.
Unscheduled SSI Reviews of Recipients’ Bank Accounts — To minimize the rate of overpayments to SSI recipients whose income or resources exceed eligibility limits, the SSA is focusing on preventing future overpayments rather than trying to detect them after the payments are made. This approach means that anytime a recipient experiences a significant life event, the SSA may use that opportunity to conduct a full AFI financial resource verification check.
Events that are most likely to cause an AFI procedure include getting married, moving, changing the number of household members, or changing any employment hours or salary.
Whose Accounts Get Checked?
Every SSI applicant or recipient needs to know the nature of every account on which they are named as an account owner. If an SSI recipient is named on a joint bank account, the SSA generally considers every cent in the account to be an available resource to the recipient, even though the deposited funds all came from the other joint account holder. The key question is whether the SSI recipient has the power to withdraw funds from the account. Only when an account limits the SSI recipient’s power to withdraw or use funds will the SSA agree not to count the money as an available resource. This would apply to an account controlled by another person, an account requiring a third-party signature, or trust accounts under the control of a trustee who is not the SSI recipient.