The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently published new guidelines mandating that the agency issue detailed notices when individuals are determined to be ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of excess resources that include a countable trust. The public was notified of the new guidelines via internal agency instructions published in an Emergency Message. The new notices must identify the basis for a denial of SSI benefits when a trust is determined to render an applicant or recipient ineligible.

The Emergency Message indicates that SSA found the agency’s current notices sometimes provide incomplete information about the reasons for denials of benefits due to excess resources when a trust is involved. Under the new guidelines, the agency must issue a manual notice whenever an individual:

  • is ineligible due to excess resources and those resources include a trust;
  • has excess resources, but is eligible for SSI based on an undue hardship waiver; or,
  • has a change in eligibility or payment status due to trust or undue hardship involvement.

When SSI benefits are denied or an individual’s payment status is effected in one of the above situations, the new guidelines require that SSA issue a notice containing the following information:

  1. Identifying the applicable section of the trust containing the problematic language or issue;
  2. Citation to the agency’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS), the agency’s operating manual, containing the policy requirements on that subject; and,
  3. The following language indicating where the POMS can be found on-line – “You can find the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) on the Social Security website at”

The instructions are available online.

Hopefully, this new policy instruction will help trust beneficiaries, trustees and their counsel to remedy issues with trusts more quickly and efficiently.