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How an SSI Update May Increase Benefits for the I/DD Community

More than seven million Americans receive supplemental security income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This valuable benefit helps many individuals, including those living with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DDs), pay for living expenses such as utilities, groceries, and rent. The agency is proposing an update to its current SSI calculations that would result in recipients receiving full SSI benefits. The Direct Care Innovations team applauds the SSA for taking this important step toward fair and equitable benefits for SSI recipients nationwide. Let’s look at the current SSI benefit standards and how this proposed update would benefit thousands of individuals living with I/DDs.

How an SSI Update May Increase Benefits for I/DD

Current Standards for SSI Benefits

Specific SSI calculations are used for individuals who receive SSI benefits and in-kind support and maintenance in the form of reduced rental payments. Many family members or friends of individuals who receive SSI benefits and live with I/DDs offer housing options to these individuals at a reduced rate. This helps offset their low, fixed-income, and ever-increasing living expenses. If these individuals pay rent or shelter expenses that are lower than the current market value or lower than the average rental rate, their SSI benefits are reduced. 

However, seven states – New York, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, Vermont, and Connecticut – do not follow these strict rules. Due to various state court rulings, the SSI benefit calculations of these states are much less rigid.

Under the current standards, SSI applicants who pay lower rental rates are at a great disadvantage. While they may be receiving much-needed support from family or friends in the form of low rental payments, they are essentially being penalized by receiving only a portion of their benefits rather than the full amount for which they qualify.

New Proposed SSI Rule Update

According to the Federal Register, the new proposed rule would make SSI benefit calculations fair and equitable across all 50 states. The SSA would no longer reduce benefits for SSI recipients who pay lower rental rates. The new standard would allow individuals who spend more than one-third of their income on housing expenses, regardless of how their rent compares to the current market value, to keep their full SSI benefits.

This new standard would make a huge difference for those receiving SSI benefits, especially since many individuals living with a disability take advantage of this income program. The SSA reports that approximately 41,000 beneficiaries would receive increased benefits, which calculates to an average of $128 monthly for each recipient. Furthermore, an estimated 14,000 individuals who previously did not qualify for SSI because of low rental payments would now be eligible to apply for these financial benefits. 

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Source: Diament, Michelle. “Social Security Proposes Update To SSI Calculation.” Web article. Disability Scoop. 29 Aug. 2023. Web. 10 Oct. 2023.

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