Social Security updates SSI regulations: food no longer included in ISM calculations


| Photo via Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK – The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a final rule, “Omitting Food from In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) Calculations,” announcing the first of several updates to the agency’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) regulations that will help people receiving and applying for SSI.

“A vital part of our mission is helping people access crucial benefits, including SSI,” said Martin O’Malley, Commissioner of Social Security. “Simplifying our policies is a common-sense solution that reduces the burden on the public and agency staff and helps promote equity by removing barriers to accessing payments.”

SSI provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness and adults aged 65 and older with limited income and resources. SSI benefits help pay for basic needs like rent, food, clothing, and medicine. People applying for and receiving SSI must meet eligibility requirements, including income and resource limits. Under its old rules, ISM includes food, shelter, or both a person receives – the agency counts ISM as unearned income, which may affect a person’s eligibility or reduce their payment amount.

Under the final rule, beginning September 30, 2024, the agency will no longer include food in ISM calculations. The SSA said the new policy removes a critical barrier to SSI eligibility due to an applicant’s or recipient’s receipt of informal food assistance from friends, family, and community networks of support.

The new policy further helps in several important ways: the change is easier to understand and use by applicants, recipients, and agency employees; applicants and recipients have less information to report about food assistance received from family and friends, removing a significant source of burden; reducing month-to-month variability in payment amounts will improve payment accuracy; and the agency will see administrative savings because less time will be spent administering food ISM.

The agency continuously examines programmatic policy and approves regulatory and sub-regulatory changes.

–With Jay Domingo/PDM

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