Social Security to Remove Barriers to Accessing SSI Payments

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

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 our 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 new final rule, beginning September 30, 2024, the agency will no longer include food in ISM calculations. The new policy removes a critical barrier for 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.