How can Mom's supplemental security income (SSI) be increased?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 09, 2016
Dgray3777 asked...

My mom is living in my house since she moved from other state, She got supplemental security income (SSI) for low income seniors in the amount of $674 in the beginning. After we had interview with a local official, they decided to cut down her income to $450 per month because I told them she pays me $200 a month for rent. I also said I would ask for $500 if somebody else wanted to rent that room. So they said the fair market value for the room she lives in is $500 a month and she is not paying me the full value of the room. In fact, I do not think the bedroom she stays in is rentable, because there is no separate bathroom and kitchen. It is a three bedroom ranch house and I never tried to rent it. I said $500 based on my mortgage: $2500 per month with four people living in the house. What can I do now? I do not think she will have enough money for herself if she pays me.

Expert Answers

Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) is available only to people with very low income and almost no assets. In deciding whether someone is eligible for SSI, and if eligible how much in monthly benefits the person receives, the SSI program looks at all sources of income. That includes anything of value a person regularly receives without paying, such as food, clothing and, as in your mother's case, rent. Although your mother is paying you $200 a month, because you told SSI that the room is "worth" $500 a month, they calculate that she is getting the difference -- $300 -- in the form of "free" rent. So, it sounds like they reduced her monthly benefits accordingly.

If you do not believe that your mother's room is really rentable for $500 on the open rental market, you can try to demonstrate that to SSI and ask them to change their decision about your mother's benefit amount. You'll have to do some homework. Do some research in the local newspaper, online, and anywhere else local room rentals are advertised, and make copies of advertisements for rooms that are similar to the one your mother has (same geographic area, same size, same facilities -- or lack of them, such as a separate bathroom). If you can gather proof that a room like your mother's would be rented for much less than $500, you can take that proof to SSI and ask them to reconsider their benefit decision.

When you gather your evidence about the real market value of the room, write a letter to SSI explaining the situation, attaching copies of your proof. Then set up an appointment to see a Social Security or other Social Services worker at the office that handles your mother's SSI claim, bringing your proof with you to the appointment. You can also send the letter and proof ahead of time, but make sure you set up a face-to-face meeting during which you can explain the situation.

Community Answers

Concernedalways answered...

My mother receives the exact same amount as your mother and we are both living on far less income. I don't think there is a way for the amount to be increased.

Ge mom answered...

I think your mom is getting a one-third reduction because they consider that you are providing her (in-kind) support. See this link:

There are several ways to get around this one-third reduction, and they are explained on the Social Security website. Basically, you have to demonstrate that your mother is carrying her fair share of the housing expenses, or that she is renting the room from you at its fair market rental.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I have dealt with this same situation myself. Here is how I solved the problem. According to, FMR (fair market rent-average) for a studio apartment (including basic utilities of gas, water, elec, sewer, trash) is about 599 (+/-depending on where you live and size of apartment). Since a room in a private home does not usually include private entrance, parking space, bath, kitchen, clubroom, pool, etc., it is obviously worth less than 599. Write a letter to SSA (do not call, write a letter and send it certified mail) stating the following: I rent a room in a private home, and buy my own food. (apply for and get food stamps started if necessary). Enclose a letter from the landlord (landlord=whomever own or rents the entire home) stating the following: After study of the value of room rentals in a private home in my area, I conclude that Fair Market Rent for the room described is ____ per month. This is the same as I would charge any other renter. If SSA calls to chat about this new fact, you can explain you blurted out a number without much thought, and have done some research and reconsidered the previous number. Its true correct? This should take care of it. No phone chat or face-to-face interview needed. All SSA caseworker wants from you is a written statement that answers certain yes/no questions in the computer to calculate your benefit amount.