2013 Annual Report of the SSI Program

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B. NUMBERS OF SSI PROGRAM RECIPIENTS
This section presents projections of the numbers of persons receiving Federal SSI payments by category and age group.1 The SSI recipient categories of: (1) aged; or (2) blind or disabled identify the criteria under which the recipient established eligibility for SSI benefits. The following paragraphs discuss the recipient categories in more detail.
Aged recipients establish their eligibility for SSI benefits by meeting the age-65 -or-older requirement2 and other SSI eligibility requirements. In December 2012, 1.2 million aged individuals received Federally-administered SSI payments.
Blind or disabled recipients establish their eligibility for SSI benefits by meeting the definition of blindness or disability and the applicable income and resource limits as well as any other SSI eligibility requirements. In December 2012, there were 7.1 million blind or disabled recipients of Federally-administered SSI payments. These recipients can fall into two subcategories based on age: blind or disabled adults (age 18 or older) and blind or disabled children (under age 18).
Blind or disabled adults meet the definition of blindness or disability for individuals age 18 or older and SSI income and resource limits. Students age 18 to 21 must meet the adult definition of disability; they differ from other adults only in that they qualify for a special student earned income exclusion. When blind or disabled adult recipients reach age 65, we generally continue to classify them as blind or disabled adults (rather than aged). In December 2012, 5.8 million blind or disabled individuals age 18 or older received Federally-administered SSI payments, including 925 thousand disabled or blind recipients age 65 or older.
Blind or disabled children meet the definition of blindness or disability for individuals under age 18. These children are subject to parent-to-child deeming until they reach the age of 18. At age 18 these individuals continue to be eligible for SSI if they meet the definition of blindness or disability for individuals age 18 or older as well as other eligibility criteria. We reclassify those who continue to be eligible after age 18 as blind or disabled adults. In December 2012, 1.3 million blind or disabled individuals under age 18 received Federally-administered SSI payments.
Table IV.B1 presents historical and projected numbers of persons applying for SSI benefits by calendar year. Figure IV.B1 presents the same information as a graph. Following a 4-year period in the mid-2000s when applications remained fairly level at 2.1 million per year, applications started increasing in 2008, largely due to the severe economic recession that began at the end of 2007 and continued into 2009. The level of applications, which continued to increase through 2010, decreased only slightly in 2011 as the economy recovered slowly but decreased at a faster rate in 2012 as the economic recovery continued. We are projecting that applications will decline to 2.1 million in 2018 and remain at that lower level through 2022, reflecting the impact of individuals coming on the SSI rolls earlier due to the economic downturn, and then grow slightly, leveling off at about 2.2 million per year in 2024. This leveling off of the projected applications is a significant change from the projected applications in the 2012 SSI Annual Report where we estimated that applications would grow roughly in line with the overall population after a period of economic recovery.
This change in the projected ultimate growth pattern of the applications is due to two improvements in our projection methodology designed to make the projections more consistent with the assumptions underlying the OASDI Trustees Report. First, we reduced application growth due to the expectation that the portion of the population that meets SSI income and resource requirements will decline over time as the CPI, and therefore the SSI Federal benefit rate, is projected to grow at a slower rate than average wages and income generally. Second, we further adjusted the growth in applications to reflect the slower growth projected for the portion of the Social Security area population composed of U.S. citizens or legal immigrants as compared to the overall population because SSI recipients must come from this portion of the population.
 
Table IV.B1.—SSI Federally-Administered Applications,a Calendar Years 1974‑2037
75 or
older
75 or
older
Blind or
disabled

a
Based on data reported in the Integrated Workload Management System (formerly known as the District Office Workload Report).

b
“All” column estimated by the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics using a 10-percent sample and published in the SSI Annual Statistical Report.

c
Includes conversions from State programs and applications received in 1973.

d
Fewer than 500.

Note: Totals do not necessarily equal the sums of rounded components. We estimate the historical split among age groups on a calendar year of age basis.
 
 
As part of SSA’s adjudication of these applications, we evaluate levels of income and resources available to the applicants as well as other eligibility factors including marital and citizenship status and living arrangements. In addition, well over 90 percent of the SSI applications are for disability benefits that require the DDS to evaluate the alleged impairment. Applicants may appeal an unfavorable disability determination through several administrative levels of appeal. If an applicant exhausts all administrative levels of appeal, he or she may appeal to the Federal courts.3
Table IV.B2 and figure IV.B2 present historical and projected numbers of persons who start receiving SSI payments as a result of this decision process. We count individuals as of the first month that they move into SSI payment status. For this reason, we refer to these individuals as “new recipients” rather than “awards.”4 From 2004 to 2007, the numbers of new recipients remained fairly level, roughly consistent with the applications received during this period. Starting in 2008, however, the numbers of new recipients increased substantially. This increase is attributable to: (1) the sharp increase in applications due to the economic downturn; (2) improvements in claims processing; and (3) initiatives to accelerate the processing of cases pending adjudication.
 
75 or
older
75 or
older
Blind or
disabled
1974 c

a
Represents period in which first payment was made, not date of first eligibility for payments.

b
Historical totals estimated based on 1-percent or 10-percent sample data.

c
Totals for 1974 include recipients converted from previous State programs as well as new recipients to the SSI program during 1974.

d
Fewer than 500.

Note: Totals do not necessarily equal the sums of rounded components. We estimate the historical split among age groups on a calendar year of age basis.
 
The numbers of new recipients declined slightly in 2011 and more sharply in 2012, similar to the change in applications. Consistent with the pattern of projected applications, we project the total number of new recipients to continue to decline from the peak in 2010 and then to reach a relative low point by 2020. Over the longer term, we project the number of new recipients to level off and remain essentially level throughout the projection period. These projected new recipients reflect the adjustments to the projected applications to make them more consistent with the assumptions underlying the OASDI Trustees Report.
Some persons receiving SSI benefits in a year will stop receiving payments during the year because of death or the loss of SSI eligibility. A recipient can lose eligibility in two ways: (1) a nonmedical redetermination; or (2) a continuing disability review (CDR).5 In a redetermination, we reexamine the recipient's nonmedical factors of eligibility, including income and resources. In a CDR, we determine whether the recipient continues to meet the Social Security Act's definition of disability. For example, disabled children, upon attainment of age 18, lose eligibility if they do not qualify for benefits under the disabled adult eligibility criteria. We refer to the net reduction in the number of SSI recipients in current-payment status during a period as the number of SSI terminations for that period.
In the following tables, we have separated the numbers of persons moving out of payment status into terminations due to death (table IV.B3), as well as terminations for all other reasons (table IV.B4). Table IV.B5 and figure IV.B3 present historical and projected numbers of total terminations by calendar year. The overall total number of terminations in 2012 decreased by about 2 percent from 2011. This decrease in the number of Federally-administered terminations is due in part to a decrease in the number of terminations for State recipients not receiving Federal benefits. In addition, some of the decrease is attributable to a decrease in the number of new SSI recipients concurrently eligible for OASDI disability benefits who received SSI benefits only temporarily during the 5-month SSDI waiting period due to the 2012 decrease in new recipients.
Table IV.B3.—SSI Federally-Administered Terminations Due to Deatha, Calendar Years 1974‑2037
Totals  b
75 or
older
75 or
older
Blind or
disabled