Jake Pickle was a US Representative of the 10th District of Texas between 1963 and his retirement in 1995. A Democrat, he voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, ’65 and ’68. In 1983 he worked on increasing the full retirement age for Social Security, a measure he believed helped ensure that the program did not go bankrupt. A veteran of World War II, a husband and a father to one daughter, he died in 2005 at the age of 91. A long life apparently well-led, and thanks to his concerns in 1976 about the health insurance options for former SSI recipients, a name that will resonate throughout the Benefits Counseling world.

The Pickle Amendment remains a notable legacy. His very real concern 46 years ago was the plight of concurrent beneficiaries, those who receive both Title II benefits (Retirement, SSDI, CDB or DWB) and SSI, who were left bereft of Medicaid coverage solely because the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) had caused their countable income to be in excess of the maximum allowable SSI amount. The provision that bears his name rectified that issue and now ensures that anyone who would qualify for SSI or 1619(B) if were not for COLAs can still remain eligible for Medicaid.

It was noted that there were also cases, rather familiarly termed ‘wild pickles’, where year upon year of COLAs had eventually caused the beneficiary to lose SSI. A proviso has remained in place to ensure that anyone who has lost SSI due to successive COLAs can also still qualify for Medicaid; as the years go by there are likely to be more cases of wild pickles. This year’s large COLA will also surely see more beneficiaries continue to be grateful for the work of Representative Pickle.

The Pickle Amendment category of Medicaid beneficiaries still has few recipients, and it may be overlooked as an option. Here is a handy calculator that can be used to see if you or someone you’re helping may qualify for the amendment: A Quick and Easy Method of Screening for Medicaid Eligibility under the Pickle Amendment (healthlaw.org)