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Social Security Administration to expand access to certain benefits through several upcoming changes

By 37ci3 May10,2024

The Social Security Administration is set to introduce new rules to make it easier for beneficiaries to access certain benefits and increase the payments that some may receive.

New changes are taking effect Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, provides monthly benefit checks to more than 7 million Americans. These benefits are for adults and children over the age of 65 or who are disabled or blind, with little or no income or resources.

“We already know that the benefit amounts for people who receive SSI are incredibly low,” said Lydia Brown, director of public policy at the National Institute on Disability.

“They’re not as high as they could be to fully account for people’s needs,” Brown said.

The maximum federal monthly SSI benefit is currently $943 per eligible individual and $1,415 for an eligible individual and eligible spouse.

The changes, scheduled to take effect on Sept. 30, are “a positive step in the right direction,” Brown said.

Updates to the definition of public assistance households

The agency announced a new rule Thursday to expand the definition of public assistance households. Now, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will include families receiving payments where not all members receive public assistance.

According to the Social Security Administration, with the change, more people could be eligible for SSI, existing beneficiaries could see higher payments, and individuals living in public housing could have fewer reporting requirements.

The previous policy required all family members to receive public assistance.

A household receiving public assistance will be defined as a household receiving one or more forms of means-tested public income maintenance payments that includes both an SSI applicant or beneficiary and at least one other member.

“By simplifying our policies and including an additional program targeted at low-income families like SNAP, we are removing significant barriers to accessing SSI,” said Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley. “These changes promote greater equity in our programs.”

According to Darcy Milburn, director of Social Security and health policy at The Arc, a nonprofit serving people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the definition of public assistance households has not been updated in a long time.

“I would characterize it as good policy and common sense changes to update that definition,” Milburn said.

In addition, there are many ways that SSI still operates under rules developed in the 1980s, said Brown of the National Institute on Disability.

SNAP is the first public income maintenance benefit added to the definition of public assistance households since 1980, according to the Social Security Administration.

Other rule changes to help beneficiaries

The Social Security Administration is also working to eliminate outdated practices through two other rules that will take effect on September 30.

A change will expand SSI rent subsidy policy reduce the likelihood that subsidized rental or other rental assistance will affect a beneficiary’s SSI eligibility or monthly payment amount. The policy, which is already in place in seven states, will be rolled out across the country.

Another change will make it SSA it no longer counts food aid for support that can reduce the SSI benefit amounts that beneficiaries receive from other parties.

The Social Security Administration keeps track of the resources SSI beneficiaries receive outside of their federal benefits, formally known as in-kind support and maintenance, or ISM.

Milburn said the goal of ISM is to reduce SSI benefits if the recipient has support from family and friends.

This support can reduce an individual’s monthly allowance by up to a third, Milburn said. Because SSA tracks that support every month, the agency monitors a lot, he said.

When the changes go into effect this fall, SSI beneficiaries should find they have less paperwork to fill out, receive more accurate monthly payments and face less administrative burden, Milburn said.

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By 37ci3

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