2017 Annual Report of the SSI Program

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As section III explains, an individual must meet certain requirements related to his or her income and resources to be eligible for SSI payments. In addition, all persons under age 65, and certain noncitizen legal residents age 65 or older, must be blind or disabled. Consequently, future SSI program expenditures will depend on a variety of difficult-to-foresee factors, including the performance of national and local economies, growth and distribution of personal income and financial assets, the prevalence of disability in the general population, and the determination of disability according to the definition in the Act. Nonetheless, for planning purposes, it is important to develop the best possible projections of future SSI program recipients and expenditures.
This section presents projections of program recipients and expenditures under the SSI program for a period of 25 years. The projections rely on the intermediate demographic and economic assumptions developed for the 2017 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.1 SSI payments are offset for receipt of some other sources of income, including Social Security benefits. SSI projections in this report assume all scheduled Social Security benefits will be paid in full and on time. However, under the intermediate set of assumptions in the 2017 Trustees Report, the Trustees project that the asset reserves of the Disability Insurance (DI) and Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Funds will become depleted in 2028 and 2035, respectively. If the law is not altered, the trust funds would not be able to pay all scheduled benefits in full on time once asset reserves are depleted. Because DI and OASI benefit receipt affect SSI program eligibility and payment amounts, trust fund reserve depletion has the potential to increase the cost for the SSI program above the projected levels shown in this report.
There are two main inputs to the current projection model for SSI recipients: (1) historical and projected estimates of the Social Security area population by single year of age and gender; and (2) historical tabulations of recipients in current-payment status and suspense status by whether the recipient is receiving payments based solely on age or due to disability, single year of age, and gender. Transitions into SSI payment status are projected separately for: (1) new recipients resulting from an application for program payments; and (2) returns to payment status from suspended status. Movements out of payment status are projected separately for: (1) terminations due to death; and (2) suspensions of payment for all other reasons.2 The assumptions and methods used by the model preparing these projections are reexamined each year and, if warranted, revised in light of recent experience and new information about future conditions.
A. Demographic and Economic Assumptions
This section presents the most relevant demographic and economic projections from the 2017 Trustees Report that are used for the SSI projections in this SSI Annual Report. The single economic parameter that has the most direct effect on the level of SSI payments is the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (hereafter denoted as CPI),3 which is used for indexing the SSI Federal benefit rate.4 Sections V.A and V.B of the Trustees Report present a detailed discussion of these demographic and economic projections. An important feature of the intermediate assumptions in the 2017 Trustees Report is the continued recovery from the economic downturn that began in late 2007. This downturn generated a significant increase in applications for SSI disability payments, resulting in an increase in SSI expenditures. The number of applications is projected to decline in 2017 (as it has since peaking in 2010) and generally increase thereafter, slightly slower than the growth in the legal resident population. The following two tables summarize two key parameters underlying the estimates in this report. Table IV.A1 presents population projections by age subgroups that are consistent with the projected SSI recipients by age group presented in the next section.

Age groups a

Age as of last birthday.

1. Totals do not necessarily equal the sums of rounded components.
2. Historical data are estimated and subject to revision.
Table IV.A2 presents a complete history of the Federal benefit rates and Federal benefit rate increases since the inception of the program, along with projections of such amounts consistent with the economic assumptions underlying the SSI expenditure estimates in section IV.C. An adjustment is made to the monthly Federal benefit rate in January of each year for which there is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).5 This COLA is identical to the COLA applied to Social Security benefits under the OASDI program after initial benefit eligibility. In previous years, the Federal benefit rate was subject to occasional ad hoc increases, either in place of or in addition to the automatic adjustments. Table V.A1 presents a history of legislation affecting the Federal benefit rate.
Benefit rate
Essential person b
Initial benefit paid January 1, 1974 c
d 4.3%
d 7.0
e 2.5
f 513.00
f 531.00

Increases prior to 1984 were effective for the payment due on July 1 of the year. Increases shown for 1984 and later are effective for the payment due on January 1 of the year.

A concept carried over from the former State assistance plans. Fewer than 20 of those cases currently remain.

Benefits paid in January, 1974 were based on the Federal benefit rates established by Public Law 92‑603, enacted October 30, 1972: $130.00 for individuals; $195.00 for couples; and $65.00 for essential persons. Retroactive payments were subsequently made to adjust initial payments to the higher Federal benefit rates established by Public Law 93‑233, enacted December 31, 1973.

Ad hoc increases as specified in the law.

Originally determined as 2.4 percent, but pursuant to Public Law 106-554, enacted December 21, 2000, is effectively now 2.5 percent.

Benefits originally paid in 2000 and through July 2001 were based on Federal benefit rates of $512.00 and $530.00, respectively. Pursuant to Public Law 106-554, monthly payments beginning in August 2001 were effectively based on the higher $531 amount. Lump-sum compensation payments were made based on an adjusted benefit rate for months prior to August 2001.


House Document 115-54 published July 18, 2017.

The main reason for suspension of SSI payments is failure to satisfy income and resource limitations of the SSI program.

Historical values of the CPI are developed and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The CPI is also used to index several other automatically-adjusted amounts relevant to the SSI program.

The COLA applicable in January of a given year is equal to the percentage increase in the average CPI for the third quarter of the prior year over the average CPI in the third quarter of the year prior to the last year in which a COLA became effective. If there is an increase, it must be rounded to the nearest tenth of one percent. If there is no increase, or if the rounded increase is zero, there is no COLA. This unusual situation occurred in 2010, 2011, and 2016, as shown in table IV.A2.

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