Selected Research & Analysis: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program

See also related Extramural Projects.

Public Knowledge About the Social Security Administration's Disability Programs: Findings from the Understanding America Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 4 (released November 2022)
by Matt Messel, Tokunbo B. Oluwole, and David Rogofsky

Using 2021 survey results from the nationally representative panel of Understanding America Study respondents, the authors of this article explore public knowledge of various aspects of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. They present descriptive statistics that highlight different levels of program knowledge from one program aspect to another as well as across respondent characteristics such as age, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, income, and presence of a long-term disabling condition. Program aspects covered in the survey questions include financial and medical eligibility for program benefits, application and disability determination procedures, and typical processing times and benefit amounts.

Quick Disability Determination Cases: Descriptive Statistics for Fiscal Years 2015–2020
Research and Statistics Note No. 2022-02 (released September 2022)
by Sika Koudou and Jethro Dely

In the early 2000s, members of the baby boom generation were approaching the ages at which disability onset is most common. Anticipating long-term increases in disability benefit applications, the Social Security Administration instituted the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process beginning in 2006. Using a computer-based predictive model to screen initial applications, QDD identifies claims for which an allowance is deemed probable and medical evidence to support a quick decision is likely to be readily available. This note presents QDD case volumes for fiscal years 2015–2020, compares QDD and non-QDD cases, and investigates whether an unexpected decline in disability benefit application receipts during that period affected the prevalence and processing times of QDD cases.

What Is the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Deprivation and Child Supplemental Security Income Participation?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 82, No. 2 (released May 2022)
by Michael Levere, David C. Wittenburg, and Jeffrey Hemmeter

This article examines how socioeconomic deprivation relates to child Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participation in local areas. The authors construct a deprivation index that reflects a range of socioeconomic factors. They find that local areas with higher deprivation generally have higher levels of child SSI participation, but there is substantial geographic variation. To explore this variation, the authors assess the demographic and economic factors associated with the deviation between observed child SSI participation and a level of participation predicted by the deprivation index. Local areas in which child SSI participation is substantially lower than the deprivation index predicts might be promising targets for outreach to better inform families about the SSI program. By measuring the deviation between predicted and actual SSI participation at the census tract level, outreach efforts can pinpoint the precise locations where they might plausibly have the greatest effect.

State Medicaid Eligibility and Enrollment Policies and Rates of Medicaid Participation among Disabled Supplemental Security Income Recipients
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 76, No. 3 (released August 2016)
by Kalman Rupp and Gerald F. Riley

In addition to providing income-maintenance payments to eligible participants, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides automatic Medicaid enrollment for applicants upon SSI award in most states. Other states require applicants to file a separate Medicaid application. Some use the SSI eligibility criteria for both programs; others use Medicaid eligibility rules that are more restrictive. The authors use matched monthly longitudinal administrative records to test whether automatic enrollment has a positive effect on Medicaid coverage. Using logistic regression with a combination of repeated cross-section and regression discontinuity approaches, they find positive effects of automatic enrollment on Medicaid coverage relative to other policies. The differences are attributable to a discontinuous increase in Medicaid coverage shortly after the final disability determination decision. The time lag arising from the often-lengthy disability determination process reduces the effectiveness of automatic enrollment, which depends critically on timeliness of the final award decision.

Supplemental Security Income Program Entry at Age 18 and Entrants' Subsequent Earnings
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 75, No. 3 (released August 2015)
by Jeffrey Hemmeter

In determining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility and payment levels for child applicants and recipients, the Social Security Administration attributes part of parental income to the child using a process called deeming. Parental-income deeming ends at age 18, relaxing a key SSI eligibility criterion for youths at that point. Using Social Security administrative records, this article presents data on the number and characteristics of youths who apply for SSI shortly before and after they turn 18. The author finds that the number of applications spikes at age 18 and that 18-year-old applicants are more likely than 17-year-olds to be allowed into the program. The author also compares the relative likelihood of subsequent employment for allowed and denied youth applicants.

Administering Social Security: Challenges Yesterday and Today
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3 (released August 2010)
by Carolyn Puckett

During its 75-year history, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has faced many administrative challenges. This article depicts some of those challenges—involving legislative demands, staffing and workloads, infrastructure and technology, logistics and procedures, emergency response operations, and other matters—and the steps that SSA has taken to deal with them.

Low Levels of Retirement Resources in the Near-Elderly Time Period and Future Participation in Means-Tested Programs
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 1 (released February 2010)
by Alexander Strand

This article describes the de facto standards of low income and resources reflected in the eligibility standards of the largest means-tested programs that serve the elderly and then applies these standards to a near-elderly cohort. Through juxtaposing retirement resources in the near-elderly time period with program participation in the elderly time period, the author indirectly examines some of the changes between the two time periods that could affect program eligibility, including spend-down of resources and marital dissolution. Retirement resource levels are estimated using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and subsequent participation in one of the means-tested programs—Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—is examined using matched administrative records.

Uses of Administrative Data at the Social Security Administration
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1 (released May 2009)
by Jennifer McNabb, David Timmons, Jae G. Song, and Carolyn Puckett

This article discusses the advantages and limitations of using administrative data for research, examines how linking administrative data to survey results can be used to evaluate and improve survey design, and discusses research studies and SSA statistical products and services that are based on administrative data.

A Legislative History of the Social Security Protection Act of 2004
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 4 (released March 2009)
by Erik Hansen

The Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), with its administrative remedies and program protections, can be seen as another incremental step in the development of a social insurance program that best meets the evolving needs of American society. This article discusses the legislative history of the SSPA in detail. It also includes summaries of the provisions and a chronology of the modification of these proposals as they passed through the House and Senate, and ultimately to the president's desk.

Benefit Adequacy Among Elderly Social Security Retired-Worker Beneficiaries and the SSI Federal Benefit Rate
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 3 (released April 2008)
by Kalman Rupp, Alexander Strand, Paul S. Davies, and James Sears

The federal benefit rate (FBR) of the Supplemental Security Income program provides an inflation-indexed income guarantee for aged and disabled people with low assets. Some consider the FBR as an attractive measure of Social Security benefit adequacy. Others propose the FBR as an administratively simple, well-targeted minimum Social Security benefit. However, these claims have not been empirically tested. Using microdata from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, this article finds that the FBR is an imprecise measure of benefit adequacy; it incorrectly identifies as economically vulnerable many who are not poor, and disregards some who are poor. The reason for this is that the FBR-level benefit threshold of adequacy considers the Social Security benefit in isolation and ignores the family consumption unit. The FBR would provide an administratively simple but poorly targeted foundation for a minimum Social Security benefit. The empirical estimates quantify the substantial tradeoffs between administrative simplicity and target effectiveness.

Defined Contribution Pension Plans and the Supplemental Security Income Program
Policy Brief No. 2006-01 (released March 2006)
by Rene Parent

This policy brief analyzes changes in the employer-sponsored pension system and the relationship of these changes to the Supplemental Security Income program's treatment of retirement plans. SSI does not treat assets in defined benefit and defined contribution retirement plans in the same manner. The primary difference is that a potential SSI recipient has access to the funds in a defined contribution plan, but a participant in the defined benefit plan has no access to the pension until attaining a specific age. The increasing prevalence of the defined contribution retirement plan and the decreasing prevalence of the defined benefit plan is one significant change—a trend that has gained momentum since the mid-1980s. The importance of these issues relates to the extent of pension plan holdings among SSI applicants and recipients, which is in turn directly related to their involvement in the labor force. The policy brief discusses three alternate approaches to SSI treatment of defined contribution retirement plans, one of which is to retain the current policy.

How Many SSI Recipients Live with Other Recipients?
Policy Brief No. 2004-03 (released June 2004)
by Susan Wilschke

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).

Child Support Payments and the SSI Program
Policy Brief No. 2004-02 (released February 2004)
by Susan Wilschke and Richard Balkus

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.

Treatment of Married Couples in the SSI Program
Issue Paper No. 2003-01 (released December 2003)
by Richard Balkus and Susan Wilschke

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.

Modeling SSI Financial Eligibility and Simulating the Effect of Policy Options
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 2 (released September 2002)
by Paul S. Davies, Minh Huynh, Chad Newcomb, Paul O'Leary, Kalman Rupp, and James Sears

This article presents the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Financial Eligibility Model developed in the Division of Policy Evaluation of the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics. Focusing on the elderly, the article simulates five potential changes to the SSI eligibility criteria and presents the effects of those simulations on SSI participation, federal benefits, and poverty among the elderly. Finally, the article discusses future directions for research and potential improvements to the model.

Transitions from AFDC to SSI Before Welfare Reform
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 1 (released April 2002)
by David C. Stapleton, David C. Wittenburg, Michael E. Fishman, and Gina A. Livermore

This article examines the interaction between the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) programs in the period before welfare reform (1990 to 1996). It also discusses the potential impact of welfare reform on the interaction between SSI and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which replaced AFDC.

Eligibility for the Medicare Buy-in Programs, Based on a Survey of Income and Program Participation Simulation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 3 (released July 2001)
by Kalman Rupp and James Sears

Fewer people appear eligible for Medicare buy-in programs than most earlier research indicated, implying that participation rates may be higher than previously believed. The authors estimate a 63 percent rate of participation among those eligible for the combined Qualified Medicare Beneficiary and Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary programs in 1999. The estimates are based on Survey of Income and Program Participation data matched to the Social Security Administration's administrative records. The matched data provide information of better quality than the data used in previous studies.

Reducing Poverty Among Elderly Women
ORES Working Paper No. 87 (released January 2001)
by Michael A. Anzick and David A. Weaver

Although the Social Security program has substantially reduced poverty among older Americans, 17.3 percent of nonmarried elderly women (widowed, divorced, or never married) are living in poverty today. This paper explores several policy options designed to reduce poverty by enhancing Social Security widow(er)'s benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, and Social Security's special minimum benefit. Depending on the option, 40 percent to 58 percent of the additional federal spending would be directed to the poor or near poor.

The Effect of Welfare Reform on SSA's Disability Programs: Design of Policy Evaluation and Early Evidence
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 1 (released July 2000)
by Paul S. Davies, Howard M. Iams, and Kalman Rupp

Recent legislation has affected the populations served by the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) disability programs. The Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 mandated that persons whose disability determination was based on drug addiction or alcoholism be removed from the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance rolls. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (later amended by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997) tightened the SSI eligibility criteria for children and converted the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into a block grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This article describes the design of three related studies evaluating the direct and indirect effects of these policy changes on SSA's disability populations. It describes the methodological challenges of the studies and the strategies used to overcome them. It also presents early evidence from the three studies and discusses future directions.

SSI At Its 25th Year
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 2 (released September 1999)
by Lenna D. Kennedy

Beginning in January 1974, the three previously existing State adult assistance programs were amalgamated into the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, to be administered by the Social Security Administration. This change was made to provide a nationwide floor of income for needs-based assistance, and to make such payments more efficiently by working through SSA's existing network of field offices.

This article traces the 25-year patterns of growth and changes in the number of persons applying for assistance, the number and proportion of those applicants who were awarded payments, and the overall number of persons who received SSI. Three major age groups are considered separately: those aged 65 or older, disabled adults aged 18–64, and children age 18 and younger. The last group was newly eligible under SSI for payments based on their own blindness or disability and not, as was the case previously, because they were a member of a needy family.

SSI Case Closures
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 4 (released October 1992)
by Charles G. Scott
SSI Modernization Project Final Report of the Experts
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 4 (released October 1992)
Denial of SSI Applications Because of Excess Resources
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 2 (released April 1992)
by Satya Kochhar
Applications Received in 1987 and Allowance Rates for Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 7 (released July 1991)
by Howard D. Oberheu
Commentary: SSI and the Low-Income Population
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 9 (released September 1988)
by Jack Schmulowitz
First Year Impact of SSI on Economic Status of 1973 Adult Assistance Populations
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 9 (released September 1988)
by Sylvester J. Schieber
Social Security Related Legislation in 1987
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 4 (released April 1988)
SSA's Outreach Efforts to Contact Beneficiaries Eligible for SSI Payments
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 1 (released January 1988)
by Charles G. Scott, Ruthellen Mulberg, and Howard D. Oberheu
Program and Demographic Characteristics of Supplemental Security Income Recipients, December 1985
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 50, No. 5 (released May 1987)
by Arthur L. Kahn
The Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act: Legislative History and Summary of Provisions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 50, No. 3 (released March 1987)
by Sarah G. Rocklin and David R. Mattson
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 8 (released August 1986)
by Mary Ross and Carol Hayes
A 10-Year Review of the Supplemental Security Income Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 47, No. 1 (released January 1984)
by John Trout and David R. Mattson
Unearned Income of Supplemental Security Income Recipients, May 1982
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 5 (released May 1983)
by Lenna D. Kennedy
SSI: Trends and Changes, 1974–80
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 7 (released July 1982)
by Lenna D. Kennedy
Analysis of Nonparticipation in the SSI Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 6 (released June 1981)
by John A. Menefee, Bea Edwards, and Sylvester J. Schieber
Effect of SSI on Medicaid Caseloads and Expenditures
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 2 (released February 1979)
by Sue C. Hawkins and Donald E. Rigby
Response to Recipiency Under Public Assistance and SSI
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 11 (released November 1978)
by Thomas Tissue
First Year Impact of SSI on Economic Status of 1973 Adult Assistance Populations
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 2 (released February 1978)
by Sylvester J. Schieber
Income of SSI Recipients, December 1975
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 6 (released June 1977)
by Lenna D. Kennedy
Conversions to Supplemental Security Income From State Assistance: A Program Records Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 6 (released June 1975)
by Lenna D. Kennedy, Dorothea Thomas, and Jack Schmulowitz
Growth of the Supplemental Security Income Program in 1974
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 5 (released May 1975)
Concurrent Supplemental Security Income Payments and OASDI Cash Benefits
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 12 (released December 1974)
by Lenna D. Kennedy
Early Experience Under the Supplemental Security Income Program
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 6 (released June 1974)
by James C. Callison