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Selected Research & Analysis: Policy Analysis > Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

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Source, Form, and Amount of In-kind Support and Maintenance Received by Supplemental Security Income Applicants and Recipients
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 74, No. 3 (released August 2014)
by Joyce Nicholas

This article examines the in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) received by Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program applicants and recipients. Social Security defines ISM as unearned income received by SSI applicants and recipients in the form of food and/or shelter from anyone living within or outside their households. About 9 percent of SSI recipients have their benefit rates reduced because of ISM during any given year. Using data from the Modernized SSI Claims System, the author quantifies the source, form, and amount of ISM received by SSI recipients. The article reveals that SSI recipients are more likely to receive ISM from outside than inside their homes, receive assistance in the form of shelter rather than food, and allege assistance that is equal to or less than the current ISM caps.

African Americans: Description of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Participation and Benefit Levels Using the American Community Survey
Research and Statistics Note No. 2014-01 (released January 2014)
by Patricia P. Martin and John L. Murphy

The authors use American Community Survey (ACS) data to compare Social Security and Supplemental Security Income program participation and benefit levels of African Americans with those of the general population. The ACS data show that African Americans are more likely to be Supplemental Security Income recipients, and less likely to be Social Security beneficiaries. Higher rates of poverty, disability, and mortality among African Americans mean that they are also more likely to rely on Social Security survivor and disability benefits than are other beneficiaries.

Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care: An Evaluation of Supplemental Security Income Policy Change
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 3 (released August 2013)
by Laura King and Aneer Rukh-Kamaa

This article evaluates the effects of a Social Security Administration policy change for youths with disabilities making the transition out of foster care at age 18. The change allows those youths to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments 60 days earlier than the previous policy allowed, to provide additional time for processing the SSI claim before the applicant ages out of the foster care system. The authors examine administrative records on SSI application from before and after the policy change to determine if the change has decreased the gap between foster care benefits and SSI payments for the target population.

Prevalence, Characteristics, and Poverty Status of Supplemental Security Income Multirecipients
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 3 (released August 2013)
by Joyce Nicholas

This article looks at Supplemental Security Income (SSI) multirecipients. Using matched administrative and survey data, the author quantifies the prevalence of SSI recipients who live with other recipients (not including an SSI-eligible spouse). The author also conducts family- and household-level analyses to shed light on the social and economic characteristics of SSI multirecipients. The article reveals that SSI multirecipients represent about one-fifth of the SSI population and that their poverty rates vary according to family and household composition characteristics.

Factors Affecting Initial Disability Allowance Rates for the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs: The Role of the Demographic and Diagnostic Composition of Applicants and Local Labor Market Conditions
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 4 (released November 2012)
by Kalman Rupp

Various factors outside the control of decision makers may affect the rate at which disability applications are allowed or denied during the initial step of eligibility determination in the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. This article, using individual-level data on applications, focuses on the role of three important factors—the demographic characteristics of applicants, the diagnostic mix of applicants, and the local unemployment rate—in affecting the probability of an initial allowance and state allowance rates. A random sample of initial determination administrative records for the 1993–2008 period is used for the analysis in a fixed-effects multiple regression framework. The empirical results show that the demographic and diagnostic characteristics of applicants and the local unemployment rate substantially affect the initial allowance rate. An increase in the local unemployment rate tends to be associated with a decrease in the initial allowance rate. This negative relationship holds for adult applicants in both the DI and SSI programs and for SSI childhood applicants.

Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income, 2002–2005
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 2 (released May 2010)
by Joyce Nicholas and Michael Wiseman

This article is an extension of work reported in an earlier article entitled, "Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income" (Social Security Bulletin 69(1): 45–73). Like the original work, the present study looks at the consequences of obtaining estimates of the prevalence of poverty among persons aged 65 or older by using administrative data to adjust incomes reported in the Current Population Survey. The original article looked at incomes in 2002; the present one covers measures of absolute and relative poverty status of the elderly during the 2003–2005 period. Again, we find that inclusion of administrative data presents challenges, but under the methodology we adopt, such adjustments lower estimated official poverty overall and increase estimated poverty rates for elderly SSI recipients by correcting for the misreporting of SSI, OASDI, and earnings receipt by CPS respondents.

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.

The Research Contributions of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 4 (released December 2009)
by Steven A. Sass

This article reviews the research contributions of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College over its 10-year history and their implications for Social Security and retirement income policy in three major areas: (1) Social Security's long-term financing shortfall, (2) the adequacy of retirement incomes, and (3) labor force participation at older ages as a means to improve retirement income security. The center has received substantial funding support from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in each area and has also successfully leveraged SSA's investment by attracting funding from other sources.

Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 1 (released May 2009)
by Joyce Nicholas and Michael Wiseman

Provided here are the absolute and relative poverty status of 2002 elderly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. Official poverty estimates are generated from the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS/ASEC). The poverty study presented here differs from previous studies in that it is based on CPS/ASEC income and weight records conditionally adjusted by matching Social Security administrative data. This effort improves the coverage of SSI receipt and the accuracy of SSI estimates. The adjusted CPS/administrative matched data reveal lower 2002 poverty rates among elderly persons (with and without SSI payments) than those generated from the unadjusted CPS/ASEC data.

Simplifying the Supplemental Security Income Program: Options for Eliminating the Counting of In-kind Support and Maintenance
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 4 (released March 2009)
by Richard Balkus, James Sears, Susan Wilschke, and Bernard Wixon

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.

The Canadian Safety Net for the Elderly
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 2 (released October 2008)
by Michael Wiseman and Martynas A. Yčas

Canada's Public Pensions System is widely applauded for reducing poverty among the elderly. This article reviews benefits provided to Canada's older people and compares the Canadian system to the U.S. Supplemental Security Income program. Although Canada's system would probably be judged prohibitively expensive for the United States, the authors argue that there are nevertheless lessons to be learned from the Canadian experience.

Disability Benefit Coverage and Program Interactions in the Working-Age Population
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 1 (released August 2008)
by Kalman Rupp, Paul S. Davies, and Alexander Strand

It is widely known that about three-fourths of the working-age population is insured for Disability Insurance (DI), but the substantial role played by the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program in providing disability benefit coverage is not well understood. Using data from the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) we find that over one-third (36 percent) of the working-age population is covered by SSI in the event of a severe disability. Three important implications follow: (1) SSI increases the overall coverage of the working-age population; (2) SSI enhances the bundle of cash benefits available to disabled individuals; and (3) interactions with other public programs—most notably the SSI path to Medicaid coverage—also enhance the safety net. Ignoring these implications could lead to inaccurate inferences in analytic studies.

The Food Stamp Program and Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 4 (released May 2008)
by Brad Trenkamp and Michael Wiseman

The Food Stamp Program (FSP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are important parts of national public assistance policy, and there is considerable overlap in the populations that the programs serve. This article investigates FSP participation by households that include SSI recipients and assesses the importance of various provisions of the Food Stamp Program that favor SSI recipients.

Disabled Workers and the Indexing of Social Security Benefits
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 4 (released May 2008)
by Alexander Strand and Kalman Rupp

This article presents the distributional effects of changing the Social Security indexing scheme, with an emphasis on the effects upon disabled-worker beneficiaries. Although a class of reform proposals that would slow the rate of growth of initial benefit levels over time—including price indexing and longevity indexing—initially appear to affect all beneficiaries proportionally, there can be different impacts on different groups of beneficiaries. The impacts between and within groups are mitigated by (1) the offsetting effect of changes in Supplemental Security Income benefits at the lower tail of the income distribution, and (2) the dampening effect of other family income at the upper tail of the income distribution. The authors present estimates of the size of these effects.

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.

Hispanics, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 2 (released February 2008)
by Patricia P. Martin

This article uses a relatively new data source—the American Community Survey (ACS) to document the economic and demographic characteristics of the Hispanic population in the United States. Although the article focuses on Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, other segments of the population are also examined. The ACS data show that the Hispanic population is significantly different from the overall population, particularly with regard to age distribution, education, and economic well-being.

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.

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.

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.

SSI Modernization Project Final Report of the Experts
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 55, No. 4 (released October 1992)