Why SSI ?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the annual SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2013. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a national, needs based, federal assistance program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides benefits to low income people at age 65 and over, and for blind or disabled children and adults.

Is SSI part of Social Security? 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is very different and separate from the Social Security retirement, disability and survivors programs. It is not Social Security even though administered by the Social Security Administration. Depending on office size, SSA employees often work primarily with either SSI or Social Security.

Since the two programs are separate, there are many differences between them with two major ones related to how each is funded and basics of eligibility. U.S. Treasury general revenues fund SSI while Social Security is funded mainly through designated payroll taxes paid by employees and employers. SSI is an assistance program for the aged or disabled with eligibility based on financial need. Social Security provides retirement, survivors and disability benefits based on individual work.

If a person meets the separate program requirements, he or she could receive both Social Security and Supplemental Security. If not, a person might be eligible for just one or neither.

Why is there a SSI program?

The original Social Security Act of 1935 contained more than just the start of Social Security, which is in Title II of the Act. For example, funding for unemployment compensation is in Title III of the Act.   

Other sections of the Act provided federal funding for state run need-based programs of old-age assistance, aid to dependent children and aid to the blind providing the roots for the future SSI program. Despite substantial federal financing, those were essentially state programs. With only broad federal guidelines, each state was responsible for setting its own standards for determining who would receive assistance and how much they would receive. As a result, eligibility requirements and payment levels differed from state to state. Over the years, the State programs became more complex and inconsistent, with as many as 1,350 administrative agencies involved and payments varying more than 300% from State to State. 

Beginning in the early 1960s, this state-operated, federally assisted welfare system drew criticism from within and outside of government for lack of consistency. To reform this, Congress passed and President Richard Nixon approved the Social Security Amendments of 1972, (Public Law 92-603, enacted October 30, 1972), which federalized the programs and created Supplemental Security Income.  

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provided for a uniform federal income floor of assistance, and optional state programs could supplement that floor. The new program was historic in that it shifted from the states to the federal government the responsibility for determining who would receive assistance and how much assistance they would receive. 

The Social Security Administration was chosen to administer the new SSI program because of its reputation for successful administration of the existing social insurance programs, its existing network of field offices and large-scale data processing and record-keeping operation. At the time, over 3 million people were converted from State welfare programs to SSI. 

The first Supplemental Security Income payments were issued in January 1974. I was there. 

Information for today’s post is primarily from the Social Security website history section and the Background section of the SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2013 

Learn more about SSI and Social Security retirement, survivors and disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov. Click on the homepage “Benefits” tab to select a topic.

SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2013

The SSI Annual Statistical Report, 2013, is now available.

Since 1974, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has guaranteed a minimum level of income for needy aged, blind, or disabled individuals. This annual report presents national data on the SSI program and the people who receive benefits from it. The report covers:

  • ·         federal benefit rates, total annual payments, and total recipients;
  • ·         federally administered payments;
  • ·         recipients of Social Security, SSI, or both;
  • ·         children under age 18;
  • ·         noncitizens;
  • ·         diagnoses of recipients under age 65;
  • ·         recipients who work;
  • ·         applications;
  • ·         awards;
  • ·         outcomes of applications for disability benefits; and
  • ·         suspensions, terminations, and duration of eligibility.

From the report Highlights:

Size and Scope of the Supplemental Security Income Program

  • ·         About 8.4 million people received federally administered payments in December 2013.
  • ·         The average monthly payment in December 2013 was $529.
  • ·         Total payments for the year were almost $54 billion, including more than $3 billion in federally administered state supplementation.

Profile of Recipients

  • ·         The majority were female (53 percent).
  • ·         Sixteen percent were under age 18, 59 percent were aged 18 to 64, and 25 percent were aged 65 or older.
  • ·         Most (86 percent) were eligible on the basis of a disability.
  • ·         Six out of 10 recipients under age 65 were diagnosed with a mental disorder.
  • ·         More than half (58 percent) had no income other than their SSI payment.
  • ·         Thirty-three percent of SSI recipients also received Social Security benefits.
  • ·         Of the people receiving SSI benefits, about 2 percent were residing in a Title XIX institution where Medicaid was paying more than half of the cost.
  • ·         Despite their disabilities, about 312,000 recipients (4.3 percent) were working in December 2013.

More about the SSI program is at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi/ssi.html. To apply, call the national Social Security toll-free number, 1-800-7723-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7:00am – 7:00pm, standard business days, or contact your local office. 

 

 

 

DDS makes disability decisions

Q: Do Social Security employees have medical training so they can evaluate medical information for disability application decisions? 

A: Local Social Security employees do not make medical decisions for disability applications and do not evaluate medical evidence for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications. 

Whether a person files online or by personal interview, when a disability application is received, Social Security representatives review it to verify that the non-medical eligibility requirements are met. For example, the SSA employee will verify that an applicant for Social Security disability meets the work requirement or that a person filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) meets the income and resource requirements of that need-based program. If these non-medical requirements are not met, they will complete the application to a denial since a medical decision would not be required. 

When non-medical requirements are met, the local office reviews application materials for completeness, including applicant details to describe the disabling impairments, medical treatment, medical releases and related employment and vocational information. 

For the actual medical decision, the disability claim goes to a State agency, usually called a Disability Determination Service (DDS). These state agencies, fully funded by the Federal Government, are responsible for developing medical evidence and making the initial determination on whether or not a claimant is disabled or blind under the law. Samples of DDS decisions from all the States are reviewed within Social Security to maintain national requirements. 

Following a national, step-by-step disability evaluation process, DDS employees make the disability decision and return the application to the local Social Security office for additional work as needed. Depending on the decision, this could be to complete any remaining development before payment begins or, if a denial, holding a file for the appeal period.

SSI Recipients by State and County, 2013

Last week I posted information about the annual publication OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2013, containing Social Security beneficiary information to the individual county level.

Newly released is the publication SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013, containing local area data for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  

Administered by the Social Security Administration, but very different from Social Security, SSI is a cash assistance program providing monthly benefits to low-income aged, blind, or disabled people, including children.

People can receive both Social Security and SSI if the individual program requirements are met. SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013 shows the number of SSI recipient’s also receiving Social Security (OASDI) benefits.

When looking up your state or county information, note that benefit amounts are shown in thousands of dollars.

For Congressional staff and now You: learn about SSA disability

On May 27, 2014, Congressional staff learned about the Social Security disability program when Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, keynoted a Capitol Hill presentation by SSA executives.  

Now you can watch this presentation.

This was a teaching session, not a committee hearing.

Included were details about the growth, solvency and sustainability of the disability program by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration.

Other sections were about who receives disability, basic eligibility requirements and the disability process including the initial claim and different levels of appeal.

You can watch the video of this teaching session or just see the slides used.

I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. Information is easily understandable, without technical jargon. 

After introductions, Stephen Goss’s presentation begins at about 6:45 in the video. Other Social Security executives discussed program information after his portion until about 1:00:00 when audience questions began. The full video is about 1:17:34 in length with several guest introductions and comments included during the session.

Family benefits and SSA disability

Q: If a mother is receiving Social Security disability benefits, should her twelve year old son receive benefits too?

A: If a parent with eligible family members, including children, receives Social Security disability, then family benefits are usually payable but this is not always the case.

The total dollar amount payable to family members is based on the earnings record of the person receiving the Social Security benefits. If the person’s earnings history is very low, there is a possibility that family benefits cannot be paid even if there are otherwise eligible family members. This is not the usual situation but it does exist.

Assuming benefits can be paid on behalf of a child, the Social Security Administration would select a person or organization, called a representative payee, to receive the funds. Generally a family member, preferably a parent with custody, is selected as payee.

Note that disability benefits from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program do not have family benefits. SSI is only for the person having the disability. SSI is an income based program for people over age 65 and disabled adults or children. SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration but very different from SSA benefits.

 

 

Benefit payment dates

Q: I recently signed up to receive my Social Security retirement and was surprised to learn that payments would be late in the month. I thought that Social Security benefits were received on the third of the month. Is this a recent change?

A: Not really. With several exceptions, Social Security benefits have been payable at different times during the month since May 1997. Before then, Social Security benefits were received on the third of a month. 

Since then, most people receiving benefits based on their own work record, such as you on your own retirement; have a payment date based on their birthdate. A family member receiving benefits through your record would also have their payment date based on your birthday. A couple can receive Social Security payment on different days if each is receiving their own retirement.

For birthdates from the 1st to 10th of a month, payment is on the second Wednesday, for birthdates from the 11th – 20th, on the third Wednesday, and for later dates on the fourth Wednesday.

If receiving Social Security before May 1997, or if receiving both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SSA payment date remains the third. SSI payments are usually on the first of a month.

Regular payment dates for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are advanced if the usual date falls on a day when financial institutions are closed.

The 2014 Social Security schedule of payment dates is here. Social Security payments are paid in the following month so the benefit for May is received in June.  Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for a month are received in that month.

 A link to the 2014 calendar is on my Areavoices homepage blogroll.

 

What are the sources of retirement income?

Overall, what are the sources of retirement income?

The recently released Social Security publication, Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2012, provides this information in charts and tables that are easy to understand. Charts focus on the receipt and shares of income from Social Security, pensions, assets, earnings, and public assistance, effectively illustrating the Social Security program’s pivotal role in the economic security of the aged.

From the Income Sources portion of report:

 “Social Security is the most common source of income for units aged 65 or older. Nearly 9 out of 10 aged units receive Social Security benefits. Asset income is the next most common source of income, received by more than half of the aged. Two-fifths receive retirement benefits other than Social Security, and more than one-quarter have earnings. Public assistance and veterans’ benefits are each received by less than 5%. Noncash benefits, including SNAP benefits and housing and energy assistance, are received by almost 12%.”

 “Social Security provides at least half of total income for a majority of beneficiary aged units. In 2012, 86.8% of married couples and 85.6% of nonmarried persons aged 65 or older received Social Security benefits. Social Security was the major source of income (providing at least 50% of total income) for 52.3% of aged beneficiary couples and 73.8% of aged nonmarried beneficiaries. It was 90% or more of income for 21.6% of aged beneficiary couples and 46.8% of aged nonmarried beneficiaries. Total income excludes withdrawals from savings and lump-sum payments from IRAs or 401(k)s; it also excludes in-kind support, such as SNAP benefits and housing and energy assistance.”

Note: the report defines a unit as “The unit of analysis here, with the exception of the measures of poverty and family income of persons, is the aged unit, which is a married couple living together or a person who does not live with a spouse.”

From the Aggregate Income portion of the report:

“Social Security provides the largest share of aggregate income for units aged 65 or older. Aggregate income for the aged population comes largely from four sources. Social Security accounts for 35.3%, earnings for 33.9%, pensions for 17.1%, and asset income for 10.5%. Only 3.0% comes from other sources.”

The Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2012 is at http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/income_aged/2012/index.html.

Young people get Social Security

Regular readers know that Social Security benefits people of all ages. Highlighting information for children under the age of 18, at the end of 2013 about 3.2 million children under the age of 18 were receiving an average monthly benefit of $534 because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased.

When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help to stabilize the family’s financial future. In fact:

About 325,690 minor children of retired workers were receiving an average monthly benefit of $615.

About 1.2 million minor children of deceased workers were receiving an average monthly survivor benefit of $806.

About 1.7 million minor children of disabled workers were receiving an average monthly benefit of $328.

 More about Social Security protection for young people is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/youngpeople/

 

 

Are SSI amounts the same all across the country?

Q: Are SSI amounts the same all across the country?

A: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is very different from Social Security even though both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.

Signed into law by President Nixon in 1972 (Public Law 92-603), SSI is need based and can provide payments to people with limited income or financial resources. SSI payments can be for people age 65 or older, plus disabled or blind children and adults.

As a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes, the basic maximum amounts are the same all across the country. Effective January 2014, the maximum monthly Federal benefit rates are $721 for an individual and $1,082 for a couple. Other income can reduce these amounts.

Individual States can choose to supplement the national amounts by adding to the Federal amount. If done, any additional amounts are based on State rules related the person’s income, living arrangements or other factors. There is wide variance across the country for this. Some States do not pay any supplemental amount, some do with funds included in the Federal payment, and some administer their own supplement arrangement.

Basic Supplemental Security Income information is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/ssi.htm.

Not all income or resources count towards the SSI limits. To learn more or apply, contact Social Security by calling the national number, 1-800-772-1213 / TTY 1-800-325-0778, or your local office.