Research & Analysis by Susan Wilschke
Simplifying the Supplemental Security Income Program: Options for Eliminating the Counting of In-kind Support and Maintenance
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program's policies for both living arrangements and in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) are intended to direct program benefits toward persons with the least income and support, but they are considered cumbersome to administer and, in some cases, poorly targeted. Benefit restructuring would simplify the SSI program by replacing ISM-related benefit reductions with benefit reductions for recipients living with another adult. This article presents a microsimulation analysis of two benefit restructuring options, showing that the distributional outcomes under both options are inconsistent with a basic rationale of the SSI program.
As a means-tested program, the Supplemental Security Income program considers a recipient's income from wages and other sources when determining eligibility and the monthly benefit amount. This study examines annual earnings for a sample of Supplemental Security Income recipients and, in the case of child recipients, their spouses and parents to evaluate the feasibility of using average annual wages in place of monthly wages when determining benefit amounts. The data show substantial variation in earnings from one year to the next. The results do not point to any clear distinctions in wage patterns among recipients or ineligible spouses and parents that would make any one group a better candidate for estimating and verifying wages on an annual basis.
The Office of Policy recently completed an analysis of the prevalence of multirecipient households in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The study was based on Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data for December 1998 matched to administrative records from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
In determining the benefit amount for a child, the Supplemental Security Income program excludes one-third of child support payments from countable income. Legislation reauthorizing the 1996 welfare reform law contains provisions that would encourage states to allow children receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to keep more of the child support paid by an absent parent. These potential changes provide impetus to revisit the way the SSI program treats child support.
The Supplemental Security Income program serves as an income source of last resort for elderly or disabled individuals. This analysis identifies how marital status affects benefit rates and the counting of income and resources in determining eligibility.
This article examines child support provisions in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and other means-tested programs. It also discusses policy options for improving receipt of child support for children receiving SSI and ways that SSA could gain better access to child support data.