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Getting Married Could Cut SSI Benefits

An Idaho couple has learned the hard way that getting married might have been a bad idea, at least financially. They knew that they wouldn't be living a lavish life style - Trina was receiving SSI benefits, Alex was receiving SSD benefits, and both received food stamps. And before they got married in May, 2011, they checked with their local Social Security office to learn whether their benefits would be affected by marriage.

They were told that the consequences of getting married would be minimal - maybe five or ten dollars. However, the reality was quite different. A month after their wedding, Trina received a letter informing her that her benefit was going to be cut from $674 a month to $369. In addition, the couple was told in January that their food stamps were going to be cut from $400 a month to $275.

Alex's disability benefits are not affected by his marriage because SSD is based on how many years the recipient worked and how much was paid into the system. However, SSI is a need-based program, and other income, such as that received by a spouse, will be included when calculating the amount of the benefit.

Both Alex and Trina are unable to work because of bi-polar disorder. In addition, Trina has seizures and other mental issues that make it very difficult for her to go outside. Trina says, "We probably wouldn't have gotten married," if they had known what it would cost them. Neither the Social Security Administration nor the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare would comment on the specifics of Trina and Alex's case.

Source: CDA Press, "The Cost of Marriage," By Alecia Warren, Feb. 6, 2012.

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