Social Security Clarifies Policies Towards Protecting Military Family Benefits

Social Security Administration Press Release

Military families will not lose valuable government disability benefits because a member of the household has been sent into combat. Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, has clarified the Agency’s policies so that individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, and Medicaid coverage, can continue to do so even if family income rises due to a mother, father or spouse receiving special combat-related supplements to their military pay.

“We must support the brave men and women who are fighting overseas, as well as their families here at home,” Commissioner Barnhart said. “If one hand of government is providing some additional income to compensate soldiers for the sacrifices they are making for our country, we’re not going to let another hand of government take that money away from their disabled child or spouse.”

Aged, blind or disabled individuals whose families have limited means can qualify for monthly SSI benefits from the Social Security Administration. Those benefits, in turn, frequently lead to free medical care through state-run Medicaid programs. As a general rule, if other family income goes up, the SSI payment will go down. Members of the Armed Forces often receive supplements to their basic military pay. Normally, a portion of any pay supplement would be used to reduce benefits paid to any family members on SSI. But Commissioner Barnhart’s directive ensures that any additional pay received by military personnel deployed to a combat zone cannot be used to reduce SSI benefits paid to their children or spouse if they were not receiving the additional pay immediately prior to deployment.

Commissioner Barnhart also ordered a change in the way the Agency treats housing supplements paid to some military families. Traditionally, military bases provided actual housing for service members. But under public-private sector initiatives, some military bases now provide a housing allowance that is used to pay rent to contractors providing privatized housing. Until recently, the full amount of that housing allowance was used to offset any SSI benefits payable to family members. At Commissioner Barnhart’s direction, the Agency will treat privatized housing the same as it has always treated actual military housing in the SSI program, enabling some military families in privatized housing who lost SSI payments and Medicaid coverage to regain those benefits.

People who need more information should contact their local Social Security office.

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