Evanston, IL asked in Social Security for Illinois

Q: I'm owed back pay in child support for my now autistic adult son. Will this interfere with him collecting ssi?

Father was underpaying me while my son was in high school and the transition house. He aged out last year. We have been in court for 5 years trying to collect the right amount of support. We go back to court to finalize underpayment and my son was approved for ssi. However, because the monies was owed to me as I supported my son during those years, will my son be able to receive ssi while I receive the back pay from child support? Will an able account help?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Susan Michele Schaefer
Susan Michele Schaefer
  • Social Security Disability Lawyer
  • Prattville, AL

A: Social Security counter child support as unearned income for purposes of calculating the child's SSI benefits. However, Social Security does not always count the entire child support payment as unearned income. If a child support recipient is younger than 18 (or 22, if she is still in school), and if the recipient receives the payment from an absent parent (defined as a parent who does not live in the same household as the child), then the Social Security considers only two-thirds of the payment as unearned income. You are right to be concerned that the back pay from child support can adversely affect your son's SSI benefits. To address the issue, you may want to consider either an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account or a Special Needs Trust, or both.

An ABLE account is: a tax-advantaged savings account used by eligible individuals to pay for qualified disability expenses. The eligible individual must be blind or disabled by a condition that began before the individuals 26th birthday. Funds in an ABLE account can be directly accessed and used by the disabled person for certain qualified expenses, such as education, housing, transportation, health and wellness, employment training and support .If an ABLE account balance exceeds $100,000 and causes the recipient to exceed the SSI resource limit -- whether alone or with other resources, Social Security will suspend the SSI payment until the countable resources are below the allowable limit. See https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-able.html.

A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is managed by a trustee, not be the disabled person and is irrevocable. Assets in a SNT will not affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. The SNT provides the disabled person with special needs that could not be paid for by public assistance funds, such as costs for sitters, companions, and dental or medical expenses not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. If money from the trust is used for food or shelter costs on a regular basis or distributed directly to the disabled person, however, such payments will count as income and will affect SSI. There is no limit on the amount of resources that can be held in a Special Needs Trust. Usually distributions from special needs trusts are made in the form of direct payments to vendors who provide goods or services to the beneficiary. This kind of trust also must provide that the state will be paid back upon the death of the beneficiary for everything Medicaid covered for the beneficiary during the beneficiary’s life, but only to the extent of any funds remaining in the trust when the beneficiary dies. See https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-trusts.htm.

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