Setting Aside Money in Your PASS

When you start a PASS, you will set aside income in your PASS-designated account to pay for each of the steps needed to achieve your work goal.

You cannot set aside any money you receive from SSI in your PASS. You must set aside money from some other source. For example:

  • Countable earned income (e.g., income from a job, salaries, wages, tips, or self-employment)
  • Countable unearned income (e.g., income you receive from SSDI, a pension, a trust, investments, or veterans’ benefits)
  • In-kind support (e.g., food or rent that someone else provides for you)
  • Deemed income from a spouse or parent
  • Excess resources (e.g., a lump sum retirement or severance payment)

The SSI Countable Income Calculation

Social Security uses the SSI Countable Income Calculation to figure out what your monthly SSI cash benefit will be once you have set up your PASS.

Used effectively, a PASS can be an excellent way to lower your monthly unearned income total, so that you qualify for SSI.

Example:

Fred’s only source of monthly income is $780 from SSDI. He does not currently qualify for SSI or Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) because his SSDI cash benefit is too high.

He wants to attend a vocational training program. He wants to set up a PASS plan to pay for the tuition, books, and other fees. He knows that if he sets aside some of his SSDI cash benefit in a PASS, his total countable unearned income will drop low enough to qualify him for SSI.

Fred can apply for the PASS program for this reason.

He is not sure how much of his SSDI benefit he can put into a PASS or how he will pay for his living expenses if he sets aside some of his SSDI payment in a PASS.

Fred meets with a benefits planner to discuss his questions. The benefits planner explains that Social Security will use the SSI Countable Income Calculation to figure out his monthly SSI payment.

SSI Countable Income Calculation

Step 1: Figure Out Countable Unearned Income
Even though Fred gets $780/month from SSDI, he will not be able to set aside the whole amount for his PASS. According to program rules, he will only be able to use the countable unearned income portion of his SSDI.

Countable Unearned Income
$780 (Fred's SSDI payment)
- $20 General Income Exclusion

$760 (Total countable unearned income)

So Fred has $760 he can set aside in his PASS each month.

Step 2: Figure Out Countable Earned Income
Fred is not working so he does not have any countable earned income.

Step 3: Figure Out Total Countable Income
Add Fred’s total countable unearned income to his total countable earned income.

Total Countable Income with PASS
$760 (Total countable unearned income)
+ $0 (Total countable earned income)
- $760 (Fred's monthly PASS contribution)

$0 (Total countable income)


Step 4: Figure Out Monthly SSI Cash Benefit
The Federal Benefit Rate is $771 in 2019. Subtract Fred’s total countable income from the Federal Benefit to figure out what his monthly SSI benefit is.

Monthly SSI Cash Benefit
$771 (Federal Benefit Rate)
- $0 (Total countable income)

$771 (SSI benefit)

Summary:

Before PASS: Fred receives $780/month in SSDI.

After PASS: Fred receives $780/month in SSDI and $771/month in SSI. And he’s saving some of that money to pay for his vocational training program.

Note: Fred might also be eligible for SNAP and an $81/month Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) benefit.