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Social Security Issues New Rules on Counting Income and Resources for SSI Recipients

March 25, 2005

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published final regulations revising the treatment of income and resources for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The new rules became effective on March 9, 2005.

The new regulations eliminate clothing from the definition of income and the definition of in-kind support. Therefore, SSA will no longer count gifts of clothing as income for SSI purposes. SSA indicated that 30 years of experience in administering the SSI program demonstrates that gifts of clothing rarely affect the individual's eligibility or the amount of benefits. This change will make the rules, and questioning based on the rules, less intrusive and more protective of the dignity and privacy of individual applicants and beneficiaries. The one exception to the new rule is clothing provided by an employer that must be counted as part of wages.

The regulations also change the definition of resources to eliminate the dollar value limit for household goods and personal effects. Previously, the regulations counted the value of household goods and personal items over $2,000. Again, SSA indicated that the use of the old rules affected only a few applicants and beneficiaries and that the new rule is expected to be less intrusive. The new rule defines those household goods and personal items that will not be counted as resources:

  • Household goods if they are items of personal property, found in or near a home, that are used on a regular basis, or items needed by the householder for maintenance, use and occupancy of the home, and
  • Personal effects if they are items of personal property that ordinarily are worn or carried by the individual, or are things that otherwise have an intimate relation to the individual.

The list of exclusions also includes items needed for an individual's impairment. SSA cites the example that a personal computer used by an individual with learning disabilities could be excluded from the definition of countable resources.

Finally, the regulations change the rules for treatment of cars. One car (the "first" automobile) will be excluded from countable resources if it is used for transportation for the individual, or a member of the individual's household.

The regulations are intended to simplify the administration of the program and to make the rules easier for the public to understand. The final rules were published on February 7 and became effective on March 9.