Hand of a senior woman reaching to place tomatoes on checkout conveyer belt at supermarket

Social Security Administration Releases Final Rule Omitting Food from In-Kind Support and Maintenance Calculation for SSI      

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

The most important takeaway from the Social Security Administration’s rule change is that any purchases of food for Supplemental Security Income recipients from Special Needs Trusts and families will not decrease the SSI payment. The new rule was approved on March 27 and effective September 30, 2024.

This new ruling makes Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) even better for those who depend on SSI benefits.

Food will no longer be considered in the calculation of In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). The definition of income will be changed to align with this, which will make it far less cumbersome to administer and more accessible for the general public to understand. The goal is to improve the equitable treatment of food assistance within the SSI program.

The SSA traditionally included in-kind receipt of food in its ISM calculations because food assistance helps people meet a basic need, but the rule needed to be revised for several reasons. One is to make policies easier to understand, and another is to promote equity by treating food assistance equally, regardless of the source. The goal is not to harm an already vulnerable population when receiving food assistance.

SSI recipients historically have low income and resources, facing barriers across a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Disabled individuals are more likely to be food insecure, and this will remove barriers to receiving informal food assistance from friends, family, and community networks of support.

SSI recipients will still be asked about their food sources to determine specific values about other benefits, including shelter, as part of their maintenance calculations.

For disabled family members who depend on SSI benefits, this makes a Special Needs Trust even more valuable. When trust assets are used to buy food, they will not be countable against the recipient’s SSI benefits.

Please contact the office if you have questions about the impact of the rule change.

Source: Federal Register (March 27, 2024) Social Security Administration Final Rule

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.