If an individual receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receives certain types of payments, those payments must be reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and their benefits may be reduced, often quite significantly. The most common distribution that would need to be reported is payment of income in the form of food or shelter, referred to as In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). This type of income is any payment from a third party (including from a trust) for the necessities of life—food and shelter. ISM occurs when distributions are made not only for groceries, rent, or a mortgage payment, but also for basic utilities such as natural gas, water, electricity, sewer service, and garbage collection.
Last week, the SSA published a proposed rule that seeks to exclude food from the ISM calculation. The proposed rule states: “We propose to update our regulations to exclude food from the calculation of ISM. We also propose to add conforming language to our definition of income explaining that food would be an ISM exception.”
The proposed rule provides examples of how the ISM calculation would change for three fictitious cases once food is no longer considered. The SSA would continue to ask questions about food for the narrow purpose of determining which rule to use in determining ISM: the Value of the One-Third Reduction rule or the Presumed Maximum Value rule.
The SSA says that it is seeking to make this change because the effort of caseworkers to calculate ISM food payments to ensure benefits amounts were correct was time-consuming and was diverting resources from other programs. Also, the SSA stated “The current ISM policy may insert barriers into what would otherwise be an innocuous receipt of a meal or food from an individual's friends or family. The current requirements for reporting in-kind food receipts could discourage SSI applicants and recipients from receiving an often informal but important form of help.”
The public comment period for the proposed rule closed on April 17, 2023. The SSA is accepting public comments via fax, mail, and Internet. If implemented, the new rule would be a huge benefit to SSI recipients, not only in being able to receive food from others but also resulting in less burdensome reporting requirements.
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