The former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley took over the reins of Social Security in December last year in his role as the agency’s commissioner. Naturally, it’s still o early to see what lasting effect he’ll have but he has recently overseen a change that is claimed to be largely positive for all concerned.

The change we’ll see was set in motion in late March when Social Security published its final rule on “Omitting Food from In Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) Calculations’. The ruling will come into effect as of September 30 this year.

ISM has long been a method that SSA uses to ensure that SSI recipients receive less than the full Federal Benefit Rate. The agency is allowed to look at the contributions that a beneficiary makes to household expenses that include rental or mortgage costs, payments towards utilities and those towards the purchase of groceries. If the beneficiary’s income doesn’t cover a fair share of those household costs, SSA can determine he is receiving In-Kind Support and Maintenance and the SSI check can be reduced by up to a third.

The elimination of food expenses into the calculation will make reporting simpler and will ease the administrative burden on SSA case workers. It should also allow for a reduction in the fluctuations of SSI payments as food expenses are more variable than rent or utility costs. Where the positives lie beyond that it is hard to see. It appears likely that the majority of SSI recipients who currently subsist under ISM regulations will continue to do so as shelter costs alone will often prompt the application of that full third reduction in SSI payments.

For further reading you can go here: Federal Register :: Omitting Food From In-Kind Support and Maintenance Calculations