The Social Security Administration (SSA) is considering a new rule which could boost monthly payments for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries. The rule change would revise how the SSA looks at in-kind support and maintenance.
The Social Security Administration says SSI “is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income.” The current maximum SSI benefit is a paltry $914 per month for an individual (which is well below the current federal poverty level). Because it is a “means tested” program, the finances of SSI beneficiaries are subject to intense scrutiny by the government (including a requirement to give the government permission to monitor their bank accounts.) Currently SSI applicants must report whether they buy their own food or if somebody outside of their household helps them and they also must report on an ongoing basis if the amount of help they receive increases or decreases. If an SSI beneficiary gets food buying assistance their benefit amount can be slashed by as much as one-third (a $304 a month reduction for those earning the maximum benefit.) The current SSA rules discourage people from offering even modest help to disabled family members or friends.
Now the SSA is proposing to eliminate these rules and allow family or friends to offer those with disabilities and financial need some basic help with meals and groceries. Advocates for reforming SSI say the change could benefit more than 800,000 SSI recipients and eliminate the cost of administering a cumbersome requirement. However, any change to the rules won’t take effect immediately. By law, the SSA has to solicit public comments and then respond to the feedback.