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New rule means more Americans eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits: Do you qualify?

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  • Digital Team 
Social Security (SSI)

The Social Security Administration has released a new final rule titled “Expand the Definition of a Public Assistance Household,” which is part of a series of updates to the regulations governing Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI provides monthly financial support to adults and children with disabilities or blindness, and to seniors aged 65 and above, covering essential expenses such as housing, food, clothing, and healthcare. Eligibility for SSI is determined based on income and resource limits.

Effective from September 30, 2024, the rule modification broadens the definition of a public assistance household to encompass those receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and households with some, but not all, members receiving public assistance. This adjustment is expected to enable more individuals to qualify for SSI, potentially increase the payments for current recipients, and lessen the reporting requirements for residents in public assistance households.

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Additionally, the rule revises the criteria used to define a public assistance household for the purposes of identifying recipients of public assistance within a household. The new definition includes any household with both an SSI applicant or recipient and at least one other member who is a beneficiary of specific means-tested public income-maintenance programs. Previously, the policy mandated that every household member must be a recipient of public assistance. This change is beneficial for SSI recipients residing in mixed-eligibility households.

Commissioner of Social Security, Martin O’Malley, expressed his commitment to reform. “We are determined to make systemic improvements that facilitate access to vital benefits like SSI,” he stated. “By refining our policies and incorporating additional programs for low-income families, such as SNAP, we are eliminating substantial obstacles to accessing SSI, promoting greater fairness across our services.”

This inclusion of SNAP marks the first expansion of the public assistance household definition since its inception in 1980, ensuring the policy reflects the current array of means-tested programs in the U.S.

The revision implies that if an individual is identified as living in a public assistance household, the agency presumes they do not receive financial support from other household members, which would normally be considered as income. This assumption can help more applicants qualify for SSI and, in some cases, result in increased benefit payments.

These updates are part of a broader effort by the Social Security Administration to enhance the SSI program. Other recent initiatives include excluding the value of food from SSI benefit calculations and expanding the rental subsidy exception from seven states to a national policy.

For further details on the SSI program, including eligibility criteria and application procedures, visit the Supplemental Security Income section on the Social Security Administration’s website.

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