Setting Aside Money in Your PASS

When you start a PASS, you will set aside income in your PASS-designated account to pay for each of the steps needed to achieve your work goal.

You cannot set aside any money you get from SSI in your PASS. You must set aside money from some other source. For example:

The SSI Countable Income Calculation

Social Security uses the SSI Countable Income Calculation to figure out what your monthly SSI benefits will be once you have set up your PASS. You can read about the SSI Countable Income Calculation in more detail in the DB101 article on SSI.

Used effectively, a PASS can be an excellent way to lower your monthly unearned income total so that you qualify for SSI benefits.

Example

Fred’s only source of monthly income is $980 from SSDI. He does not currently qualify for SSI because his SSDI benefits amount is too high.

Fred wants to attend a vocational training program. He wants to set up a PASS plan to pay for the tuition, books, and other fees. He knows that if he sets aside some of his SSDI benefits in a PASS, his total countable unearned income will drop low enough to qualify him for SSI.

Fred can apply for the PASS program for this reason.

He is not sure how much of his SSDI benefits he can put into a PASS or how he will pay for his living expenses if he sets aside some of his SSDI benefits in a PASS.

Fred meets with a Benefits Planner to discuss his questions. The Benefits Planner explains that Social Security will use the SSI Countable Income Calculation to figure out his monthly SSI benefits amount.

Here is how the SSI Countable Income Calculation would work in Fred’s situation.

Step 1: Figure Out Countable Unearned Income
Even though Fred gets $980/month from SSDI, he will not be able to set aside the whole amount for his PASS. According to program rules, he will only be able to use the countable unearned income portion of his SSDI.

Countable Unearned Income
$980 (Fred's SSDI payment)
- $20 General Income Exclusion

$960 (Total countable unearned income)

So Fred has $960 he can set aside in his PASS each month.

Step 2: Figure Out Countable Earned Income
Fred is not working so he does not have any countable earned income.

Step 3: Figure Out Total Countable Income
Add Fred’s total countable unearned income to his total countable earned income.

Total Countable Income with PASS
$960 (Total countable unearned income)
+ $0 (Total countable earned income)
- $960 (Fred's monthly PASS contribution)

$0 (Total countable income)


Step 4: Figure Out Monthly SSI Cash Benefit
The California SSI benefit rate is $931.72 in 2019. Subtract Fred’s total countable income from the Federal Benefit to figure out what his monthly SSI benefit is.

Monthly SSI Cash Benefit
$931.72 (Federal Benefit Rate)
- $0 (Total countable income)

$931.72 (SSI benefit)

Summary:

Before PASS: Fred gets $980/ month in SSDI benefits.

After PASS: Fred gets $980/month in SSDI and $931.72/month in SSI benefits. And he’s saving a lot of that money to pay for his vocational training program.

Note: Fred might also be eligible for CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps).