Plans to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

Social Security’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) program lets people who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits earn more money and save up that money in a special type of account. The money that you save up can be used to:

  • Help pay for the cost of school or training
  • Start a business
  • Pay for equipment, support services, and other expenses related to your goal

Usually, if you get SSI benefits and have income from a job or from another benefits program, like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), your SSI benefits amount will go down. Also, if you save up too much money in a savings account or build up your assets in any other way, you could lose your SSI benefits altogether because you have more than the resource limit ($2,000 if you’re single, $3,000 for couples).

The PASS program helps make saving easier and lets you get yourself into a better financial situation. There are 2 basic benefits:

  • You can save up resources without losing your SSI benefits.
  • If you have income, you can put it into the PASS and it won’t be counted as income by SSI, thus your benefits amount won’t go down.

In this way, the PASS program can help you achieve self-sufficiency. The money you save up has to be for a work goal and can include education, training, equipment, support services, or other expenses related to this goal. If you already go to college or have a job, you can set up a PASS to help pay for your current work, school, or health expenses.

PASS plans can help some people become eligible for SSI benefits

Most people who do a PASS are already on SSI. However, some people who aren’t on SSI can also do a PASS, if the PASS plan will help them qualify for SSI. Here are a couple of examples of how this could work:

  1. If you don’t qualify for SSI benefits because of your SSDI benefits, you might be able to put the money you get from SSDI into a PASS. Once you put the SSDI money into the PASS, it will no longer count as income for SSI and you could qualify for SSI benefits.
  2. If you are not eligible for SSI benefits because of the resource limit, you may be able to move your savings into a PASS and become eligible.

Eligibility and Application

To set up a PASS, you must:

  • Be on SSI or become eligible for SSI benefits as a result of an approved PASS application.
  • Have a source of income other than SSI (for example, SSDI cash benefits or wages from a job) or have resources over $2,000 that you can use to fund your PASS plan.
  • Have a work goal that will help you earn enough money to lower your Social Security disability benefits or get off benefits altogether.
  • Be able to write down a plan that shows how saving a certain amount of money will let you reach your work goal. Social Security has staff called a PASS Cadre who can help you write your PASS plan.
  • Be under age 65. If you are 65 or older, you may be able to set up a PASS if you were getting SSI cash benefits based on disability or blindness in the month before your 65th birthday.

Social Security has an application form (PDF) to do a PASS. On the application, you will describe your goals for work and how you plan to achieve them. This description should be detailed enough to convince Social Security that:

  • You have a clear plan
  • The plan is something you can realistically do
  • If you completed the plan, your need for SSI or SSDI benefits would be, and lowered or eliminated.

If you currently do not have a clear work goal or a clear way to achieve it, you may consider working with an organization like Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) or an Employment Network (EN) through the Ticket to Work program.

Application Assistance

Creating your plan and filling out a PASS application can seem intimidating, but you can get help with every step of the process by talking with someone from a PASS Cadre. A PASS Cadre is a professional who knows about the program and is available to help you take advantage of it. The Kansas City Region PASS Cadre (which serves people throughout Missouri) can be reached by phone at 1-866-592-1755, extension 23014.

Using a PASS

After your plan is approved, Social Security will send you detailed instructions about how to use your PASS. The instructions are mostly about keeping PASS funds and expenses separate from your other money and keeping good records. You have to follow the rules carefully.

If a medical situation or some other issue comes up that impacts your ability to continue your PASS, talk to your PASS Cadre about your options. In many cases, you will be allowed to put your PASS on hold for up to 12 months without having to re-apply.

What Money You Can Put in Your PASS

Once you have an approved PASS plan, you will put money into your PASS account that you can later use to pay for expenses related to your goal.

You cannot put any money you get from SSI into your PASS account, but you can use money from most other sources, including money from:

  • A job
  • A spouse or parent
  • Your SSDI benefits

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program helps people with low income have affordable housing. It is funded by the federal government and run by local public housing authorities (PHAs).

A family that gets Section 8 benefits pays 30% of the family income for rent. The Section 8 program pays for the rest of the rent. After a family's income goes up, the amount the family has to contribute to rent also goes up, because 30% of their income is more than it used to be. When the family contributes more for rent, the Section 8 program contributes less. Note: Families that include a person with a disability who works may qualify for the Earned Income Disregard and not have to pay more rent (see below).

Section 8's Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families whose income goes up. When the family income goes up and the Section 8 program starts paying less for rent, the Section 8 program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets it aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

Learn more about the FSS. Find public housing authorities near you.

Example

Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $500 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 program. With Section 8, they pay just $150/month in rent (30% of $500), even though their apartment costs $1,000/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $850/month.

Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $1,000 each month. Now, they have to pay $300/month as rent (30% of $1,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $700/month for the family's apartment, $150 less per month than the program used to pay.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $150 each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $1,800, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.

The Earned Income Disregard (EID)

The Earned Income Disregard (EID) helps people with disabilities who work and get housing benefits such as:

With the Earned Income Disregard, if you get a job, the money you make at your job won’t be counted by your public housing authority (PHA) for the first year after you start working. That means your rent won’t go up. During the second year after you start working, only half of your work income will be counted, so your rent won’t go up as much as it otherwise would. After the second year, your entire income will be counted by the program.

Talk with your public housing authority to see if the EID can help you.