level for Medicaid, even though the benefits under the two systems are quite distinct. 551 provides minimal cash payments each month that are designated to provide for food, clothing or shelter. Briefly, in order to maintain eligibility for SSJ, a recipient cannot receive unearned income from any source in excess of $552.00 per month. Income, according to the SSJ rules, is anything that “comes in” to the recipient in any month. At the end of the month, income that is not used up converts to a resource. Thus, a resource is accumulated income. An 551 recipient may not own resources that are available to be spent on food, clothing, or shelter in excess of $2000.00. Income and resources are measured independently.
Some income and some resources are exempt from the eligibility calculations. Non- countable income includes other means-based payments such as food stamps, medical care and services, income tax refunds, loans, and any item that if retained would not be a countable resource. Exempt resources include the personal residence of the recipient, regardless of value; one vehicle, if it is needed to provide transportation; household contents such as computers,
3 electronics, physical training equipment, hot tubs and ordinary furnishings for living; life insurance with a face value of less than $1500.00 and irrevocable burial plans. Thus a person who owns a $ 500,000 house, a $ 60,000 specially-outfitted van, whose life is insured by a $2 million term life insurance policy, and who has limited income, could qualify for SSI.
But why is this significant? The government-provided cash benefit under SSJ is paltry. The amount of the SSI benefit is so small that maintaining SSI eligibility hardly seems to be a worthy goal. The prize that makes the quest worth pursuing is Medicaid. For many disabled individuals, SSI provides the gateway to the substantial medical benefits of Medicaid. As the charts demonstrate, no other government benefit provides long term medical care, including the cost of prescriptions. In most states, including New Mexico, eligibility for SSI categorically results in Medicaid eligibility. Therefore, observing the qualification criteria for 581 will enable a beneficiary to receive medical care that she may not be able to obtain from any other source.