Yes, a GoFundMe Account is a Resource!
Crowdfunding sites, such as GoFundMe, have grown in increasing popularity over the last few years as a way for people, businesses and charities to raise money for an identified purpose. After a traumatic accident or onset of a serious illness, an organizer may establish a fundraiser for the benefit of the individual, or the family thereof, to offset loss of income or to assist in covering medical expenses. Although well-intentioned, these accounts can often impact public benefits because they are an available resource.
To receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, and other needs-based programs, the recipient must satisfy certain income and asset requirements. The Social Security Administration defines income as “any item an individual receives in cash (which includes checks, money orders, or electronic funds transfers) or in-kind that can be used to meet his or her needs for food or shelter.” Income may be earned, which would consist of wages and net earnings from self-employment, or unearned. Money received from crowdfunding is considered unearned income, and the proceeds derived therefrom may directly impact a recipient’s eligibility for SSI in the month(s) received.
Usually the person whose name appears on the check would be the recipient of the income, however, many crowdfunding campaigns provide for multiple beneficiaries. In these cases, the line establishing who receives the income is blurred. To complicate matters, if a minor child is receiving benefits, there are “deeming” rules that would impact the child regardless of whether the income was directly allocable to that child.
Although receipts into a campaign are income in the month(s) received, they are a resource in the month after. Asset-based benefits have a $2,000 resource limit and as a result the retention of the proceeds, to the extent available, may also impact eligibility for benefits. There are various exceptions to the resource limit; however, absent an express exclusion any assets of an individual are countable resources. When considering resources, you must also consider the assets of spouses and from parents to their children under twenty-one years of age.
There is no exception listed in the Virginia Medicaid Manual for crowdfunding campaigns, and as a result, the funds are often considered a resource. Although arguments may be made for campaigns when the funds are raised for a specific purpose, such as raising funds for a specific technological development, but in general if the funds are available for heath, support and maintenance then such a campaign will likely be considered a resource for public benefits purposes and therefore impact eligibility.
With proper planning, crowdfunding may be a supplemental tool for an individual while awaiting benefits, during the course of recovery, or pending litigation; however, elder law attorneys are rarely consulted prior to the creation of a campaign. If you are considering establishing a campaign for an individual, or are otherwise looking at public benefits for yourself, as the result of an accident or serious health condition, consulting with an elder law attorney early on to discuss planning options are critical to avoiding overpayment issues due to periods of ineligibility.
Ask Neo: Love Bugs
Hook Law Center: Valentine’s Day just passed and it had me thinking, are “love bugs” real?
Neo: The interesting thing is that there is a real lovebug. The scientific name is the plecia nearctica and it is a species of march fly found in Central America and the southeastern United States. It may also be known as the honeymoon fly. The lovebug gets its name because during and after mating, matured pairs remain together, even in flight, for up to several days. That’s pretty cool huh? So, yes, you could catch a love bug, maybe even two!