Since SSI is a needs-based benefit, the SSA has to make sure that only those with limited resources are granted them. So whether you’re currently receiving or are still applying for SSI, you can expect the SSA to peek at your bank account.
But how often does the SSI check your bank accounts?
There is no standard on how often the SSA will check your bank account for SSI determination purposes. In general, the SSA will only check your bank account if:
- they’re trying to determine your eligibility for SSI
- they suspect fraud
They may also look at your bank accounts during SSI redeterminations, which usually happen every 1 to 6 years.
To help you better understand this topic, here’s what you need to know about the SSA’s bank monitoring process.
Why the SSA Monitors Bank Accounts
As mentioned, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based benefit. Meaning, it’s only given to people who are old/blind/disabled/ and have limited income and resources.
Resources, for SSI purposes, means anything you own and can turn into cash. This includes your properties, stocks, and bank accounts.
So when you’re applying for SSI, the SSA will obviously have to check your resources (including your bank accounts) to determine your eligibility.
Plus, in one of their studies, the SSA also found out that the leading cause of SSI overpayments is resources that beneficiaries hold beyond the SSI limit. To avoid this and weed out fraudulent claims, the SSA continues to monitor the income and resources of SSI beneficiaries.
Doing this ensures that only those who really need financial assistance will receive SSI.
How Does the SSA Check Bank Accounts?
Traditionally, the SSA only relies on the information reported by recipients to determine their bank money. But with some beneficiaries not declaring all their bank accounts, the SSA stopped relying on this self-reporting system.
Instead, they developed a process called Access to Financial Institutions (AFI). This is an automated system of verifying reported bank accounts with financial institutions.
Aside from verifying alleged bank accounts, AFI can also detect undisclosed bank accounts. It uses a unique search criteria called geographic sources. For each review, the SSA will conduct up to 10 geographic searches to determine excess resources in the bank accounts of SSI recipients, beneficiaries, and deemors.
What Type of Bank Accounts Does the SSA Look Into?
Not all bank accounts will be subjected to SSA monitoring. In general, the SSA will only look at financial accounts it considers as part of your resources. This includes:
- checking account
- savings account
- Christmas club accounts
- certificates of deposits
- money market accounts
- life insurance accounts
Exceptions to the above include:
- burial funds (up to $1,500)
- funds set aside under Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)
- funds in an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account established through a State ABLE program (up to $100,000)
- grants or gifts set aside to pay educational expenses for nine months after receipt
- money saved in an Individual Development Account (IDA)
- certain types of trusts
Can the SSA Take Money Out of Your Account?
No, the SSA cannot take money out of your bank account. Federal laws forbid the SSA to garnish bank accounts, even for overpayment recoups. Your bank account can only be garnished if you’re convicted of social security fraud and the court orders the garnishment.
How to Know if the SSA is Checking Your Bank Account
Depending on the reason why the SSA is checking your bank account, you may or may not receive any notification of such.
When you’re applying for SSI, it’s a given that the SSA will check your bank accounts. If it’s for SSI Redetermination, the SSA will also send you a notice informing you about it.
However, if you’re suspected of fraud, the SSA will obviously not tell you about it. If such is the case, there is no certain way of telling whether the SSA is looking into your bank accounts.
What Happens if Your Bank Balance is Higher Than the SSI Limit?
If your bank account balances go over the SSI limit, your SSI payments will not necessarily stop. Or if you’re still applying for benefits, your claim will not necessarily be declined.
The SSA will still look into what caused the spike in your bank account balance. If it’s a temporary cash inflow, like lottery winnings or income from a sale of personal property, it will only temporarily reduce your benefits.
However, if the SSA deems that your resources are beyond the SSI’s limit, your benefits may stop. If there are any fraudulent activities on your part, it may also lead to penalties and even incarceration.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.