How will my slot machine win affect my SSI benefits?

Q. I received Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I hit a slot machine for $1,203 in Atlantic City and was told to spend down the winnings so my benefits don’t change. What am I legally allowed to spend the winnings on? Would food shopping count as spending it down? Thank you.

— Winning

A. Congrats on your slot machine win.

Although gambling winnings do not have any effect on Social Security disability benefits, they can impact your SSI.

Social Security counts gambling and lottery winning as unearned income subject to the general rules pertaining to income, said Marnie Hards, a certified financial planner with Aznar Financial Advisors in Morris Plains.

She said when you originally sign up for SSI, you agree to report any change in status to the Social Security Administration (SSA), so it is important that you notify them of these winnings.

“SSI benefits are calculated monthly and can therefore change monthly,” Hards said. “You are required to report changes in income, resources or residence or any other factors that may determine payment amounts.”

She said reports should be made by the 10th of the month after the month in which the change occurs if made in person. The report must be made by the 8th of the month if by phone.

“Your SSI benefits will likely be reduced or even dropped to zero until a period of time passes based on how long they assume it will take for you to spend your winnings,” Hards said. “If you do not report your winning to the SSA, you could be charged an overpayment for the time period you had to spend down the funds.”

Email your questions to