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RVs and Benefits: Not a Walk in the Park
If you own or are thinking of owning a recreational vehicle (RV), you need to consider the vehicle's impact on your government benefits, especially Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
SSI and Medicaid are "means-tested" benefits and in order to receive them, an applicant must meet very strict income and asset limits. Fortunately, when someone qualifies for SSI, even if his SSI award is very limited, he will typically receive Medicaid along with it. In many cases, access to comprehensive medical care through Medicaid is more important for a person with special needs than the small cash award from SSI. This makes SSI a critical program for millions of Americans.
An SSI beneficiary can own one automobile for his own transportation or for the transportation of a member of his household without having the automobile count towards SSI's $2,000 resource limit. If the beneficiary owns a second automobile, its equity value counts towards the beneficiary's SSI resource limit. The problem with RVs is that they don't meet the Social Security Administration's definition of automobiles at all because they are used only for recreation. Therefore, if an SSI beneficiary owns an RV in her own name, it will most likely render her ineligible for SSI because the vehicle's value is almost certainly going to be over the program's $2,000 limit. (Different rules may apply if the RV is the beneficiary's home. If you fall into this category, you should speak with your special needs planner about the intricacies of this area of SSI eligibility.)
Although SSI's RV regulations aren't very forgiving, there is another way to provide an RV for an SSI beneficiary's use without running into problems with the SSA, and that is for a special needs trust funded with someone else's money to own the vehicle. In this case, the trust will hold title to the RV and will have to insure it and pay for registration and taxes. The trust will also be potentially liable if the RV injures someone and insurance does not cover the crash. However, if the trust is properly drafted by a qualified special needs planner, it will allow the beneficiary to enjoy traveling with the RV without having to worry about losing SSI or Medicaid benefits.
If you are interested in purchasing an RV with a special needs trust, or if you own an RV and are worried about applying for SSI because of its effect on your eligibility, talk with a special needs planner near you.