2023 Annual Report of the SSI Program

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II. Highlights
The SSI program is a nationwide Federal assistance program administered by SSA that guarantees a minimum level of income for aged, blind, or disabled individuals. This section presents highlights of recent SSI program experience, a summary of important legislative changes to the program in the last year, a discussion of current issues facing the SSI program, and a summary of the key results from the 25-year projections.
A. Recent Program Experience
SSI program experience during the past year included the following:
During calendar year 2022, 1.23 million individuals applied for SSI benefits based on blindness or disability, an increase of 2 percent as compared to the 1.20 million who applied in 2021. Additionally, about 172,000 individuals applied for SSI benefits based on age, an increase of 20 percent as compared to the roughly 143,000 who applied in 2021. In 2022, about 522,000 applicants became new recipients of SSI benefits, a decrease of 1 percent as compared to the roughly 529,000 who became new recipients in 2021.
Each month on average during calendar year 2022, 7.5 million individuals received Federal SSI benefits. This group was composed of 1.1 million aged recipients and 6.4 million blind or disabled recipients, of which about 63,000 were blind. Of these 6.4 million blind or disabled recipients, 1.0 million were under age 18, and 1.2 million were aged 65 or older. During calendar year 2022, 8.2 million aged, blind, or disabled individuals received Federal SSI benefits for at least 1 month.
The cost SSA incurred to administer the SSI program in FY 2022 was $4.7 billion, which was roughly 7 percent of total federally administered SSI expenditures.1
B. SSI Legislation Since The 2022 Annual Report
SSI Eligibility for Certain Ukrainian Parolees
Section 401 of the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 20222 allows certain citizens of Ukraine, nationals of Ukraine, or individuals with no nationality who last habitually resided in Ukraine to be eligible for SSI benefits.
Extension of the Qualifying Period for Certain Afghan Parolees
Certain citizens of Afghanistan, nationals of Afghanistan, or individuals who last habitually resided in Afghanistan and were paroled into the United States can be eligible for SSI if they entered the U.S. during a certain period. Section 1501 of the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 20233 extends the end of this qualifying period to the end of September 2023.
Change to ABLE Accounts
An ABLE account is a tax-advantaged account that can be used to save for the qualified disability expenses of the account’s beneficiary. In general, when determining a person’s eligibility for SSI, we exclude from resources up to $100,000 in the person’s ABLE account.
To be eligible for an ABLE account, a person must have been disabled before a certain age. Section 124 of the Secure 2.0 Act of 20224 changes this age from 26 to 46, effective with tax year 2026.
C. Current Issues Facing The SSI Program
For almost 50 years, the SSI program has provided a financial safety net for aged, blind, and disabled Americans who have nowhere else to turn. The program plays a crucial role in the lives of about eight mil- lion people and is funded from general tax revenues. Accordingly, we take great care to administer the program as accurately and efficiently as possible and remain committed to effectively overseeing the program, protecting taxpayer dollars, and maintaining the public's trust by paying the right person the right benefit at the right time.
SSI Outreach
The pandemic imposed hardships on people who face barriers to accessing our programs, including those who are elderly, have low incomes, have limited English proficiency, face homelessness, or experience mental illness or intellectual disabilities. SSI benefits are a crucial lifeline that not only help recipients meet their basic needs of food and shelter, but in some cases serve as a gateway to eligibility for other programs, such as Medicaid. SSI applications for adult and child disability benefits decreased during the pandemic. In response, we have prioritized our outreach to underserved communities to ensure the public is aware of and can access SSI and our other benefit programs.
We have worked closely on this effort with a variety of partner groups and organizations. Through our partnerships, these groups help share information about our programs, assist in taking SSI claims, and refer to us individuals potentially eligible for SSI.
To increase awareness about SSI disability payments for children, we created a national outreach campaign. As part of our campaign, we tested television and radio public service announcements (PSA) with instructions on how to apply for SSI. We also developed social media advertising focused on SSI disability for children. We collaborated with national and local third-party groups on the content of the PSAs and to share outreach toolkits through their networks. Additionally, we optimized the public-facing webpage and related information on how to apply for SSI disability for children.
We also sent letters to people who had low Social Security benefits to let them know about the SSI program and encourage them to apply. Between December 2020 and December 2022, we sent over 1.3 million of these letters. In FY23, we are further targeting our outreach to underserved communities where there was a more than 30 percent decline in SSI applications between FY19 and FY21. In addition to digital tactics, this targeted outreach includes signage on public transportation and in local stores, and a new direct mail initiative. The outreach materials will be in the market throughout the remainder of FY23.
SSI Online Protective Filing
In March 2022, we released an online tool that allows a person (or someone acting on their behalf) to let us know that they are interested in filing for SSI. We record the date the request is successfully submitted using the tool as the “protective filing date” for the interested person, and we schedule them an appointment or contact them to take their application. A protective filing date is important when a person can't apply for benefits right away because we may use the protective filing date as the date of the application if the person applies within the provided time frame. This process protects individuals against a potential loss of benefits. Since implementation, we have received over half a million requests for appointments through this tool.
Improving the SSI Program
Some aspects of the program are set by law and have not been updated for a significant period. For example, the resource limits ($2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple) were last updated in 1989. The $20 monthly unearned income exclusion and the $65 monthly earned income exclusions were established by legislation enacted in 1981 and have not been increased since.5
However, we are constantly looking for ways we can improve the equity and effectiveness of the program and our administration of it. For example, on February 15, 2023, we published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking outlining our intent to remove food from the calculation of In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). We also propose to add conforming language to our definition of income, excluding food from the ISM calculation. Accordingly, SSI applicants and recipients would no longer need to provide information about their food expenses for us to consider in our ISM calculations. We expect that these changes will simplify our rules, making them less cumbersome to administer and easier for the public to understand and follow. These simplifications would make it easier for SSI applicants and recipients to comply with our program requirements, which would save time for both them and us, and improve the equitable treatment of food assistance within the SSI program.
D. Key Results From The 25-Year Projections
The major findings in the 25-year projections prepared for this report are:

Administrative costs do not include the costs of beneficiary services provided to recipients through State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and employment networks for VR services and payments under the Ticket to Work program.

Title IV of the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (Public Law 117-128), which was enacted on May 21, 2022.

Division M in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (Public Law 117-328), which was enacted on December 29, 2022.

Division T in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (Public Law 117-328), which was enacted on December 29, 2022.

The 1981 law converted the quarterly income exclusion amounts of $60 and $195 established in 1972 to the existing $20 and $65 monthly income exclusion amounts.

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