2020 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, taking into account the individual’s living arrangements and family structure, in order to be eligible for SSI payments. The individual must also meet certain citizenship status and residency requirements. 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-project factors, including the performance of national and local economies, growth and distribution of personal income and financial assets, household and family compositions, the prevalence of disability in the general population, and the determination of disability according to the definition in the Act. Nonetheless, for planning purposes and to meet the legislative requirement for this report, it is important to develop our 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 reflect the current law governing the operation of the SSI program. Projections are developed consistent with the intermediate demographic and economic assumptions developed for the 2020 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.1 SSI payments may be partially or completely offset under current law for recipients with income, including earnings from employment and monthly Social Security benefits. For the purpose of projections in this report, the level of SSI payments net of offsets for receipt of Social Security benefits are estimated on the basis of scheduled Social Security benefit levels intended by Congress under current law. However, it should be noted that under the intermediate assumptions in the 2020 Trustees Report, assuming no change in current Social Security law, the OASI Trust Fund reserves would become depleted before the end of the projection period in this SSI report. If this were to happen, the level of Social Security benefits could be reduced from scheduled levels for some SSI recipients resulting in somewhat higher levels in net SSI payments.
It is also important to note that, consistent with the projections in the 2020 Trustees Report, the projections and analysis in this report do not reflect the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SSI and Social Security programs. Given the uncertainty associated with these impacts, it is not possible to adjust these projections reasonably at this time.
There are four 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; (2) historical tabulations of the numbers 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; (3) historical tabulations of the numbers of recipients transitioning into and out of SSI payment status by the same characteristics as in (2) above; and (4) historical tabulations of the total amount of Federal SSI payments by the same characteristics mentioned in (2) above. Using these inputs, 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; (2) suspensions due to excess income; and (3) 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 2020 Trustees Report that are used for the SSI projections in this SSI Annual Report. Sections V.A and V.B of the Trustees Report present a detailed discussion of these demographic and economic projections. The following two tables summarize two key parameters underlying the estimates in this report. Table IV.A1 presents Social Security area population projections by age subgroups that provide the basis for the projected numbers of 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 subject to revision
3. A complete table of historical and projected values is available at www.ssa.gov/OACT/ssir/SSI20.
Table IV.A2 presents a history of the Social Security and Federal SSI benefit rate increases and Federal benefit rates since the inception of the program, along with the projections of such amounts consistent with the Trustees economic projections used also for 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).3 The Social Security benefit rate increase is the COLA applied to Social Security benefits under the OASDI program after initial benefit eligibility. In previous years, the Federal SSI 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.
Social Security benefit rate increase a , b
Essential person d
e 2.5
e 2.5
f 513.00
f 531.00

In this table the Social Security COLA is shown because it is used for the determination of the increase in the FBR each year. However, the actual application of these increases is different. For example, a newly eligible Social Security beneficiary in one year will generally receive a benefit in that year that is larger than the first year benefit for an equivalent worker who became eligible a year earlier by the increase in the average wage level in the economy. The average wage level has historically increased on average by about 1 percent relative to the annual increase in the CPI-W, on which the COLA is based.

Increases prior to 1984 were effective for the payment due for June of the year. Increases shown for 1984 and later are effective for the payment due for December of the year.

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. As of February 2020, only 8 such cases remain.

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 116-123 published May 1, 2020.

Other reasons for suspension of SSI payments include excess resources and cessation of disability.

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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