Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) made revisions to Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) programs affecting members of the military, veterans, and their families. The agency published its final rules about the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act, which will change the way the SSA treats certain forms of income and other compensation for purposes of SSI eligibility and payments.
Under the HEART Act, active military and veterans will be eligible for continued or greater SSI benefits despite having an income that appears to be above certain SSI thresholds. In general, if a recipient's income goes up, his SSI payments will go down. However, under the act, most cash military compensation, including the military housing allowance for private housing, will be treated as earned income for SSI purposes. Because the SSI program looks upon earned income more favorably than unearned income, such compensation will not decrease SSI payments.
In addition, certain state annuity payments that are made to blind, aged, or disabled veterans will not be counted as income for purposes of determining SSI eligibility. Cash or in-kind payments such as food, shelter, educational awards, living allowance payments, and stipends, will not be counted as income if made by certain AmeriCorps agencies. Combat-related military pay will also continue to be excluded from countable income.
According to Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, the HEART Act is essential for the continued full support of U.S. veterans. "This law allows the men and women of our armed forces, veterans, and their families to keep more of their military-related payments while also maintaining eligibility for valuable cash and healthcare benefits," he said. "We must provide support and assistance to our active duty military and our wounded warriors, and the HEART Act improves our ability to do so."
Source: The Queens Gazette, "Social Security Published Rules For Military, Vets On SSI", 29 September 2010