TN 44 (11-02)
SI 00810.700 Income of Members of Religious Orders - General
Social Security Act as Amended, Section 1612(a);
20 CFR 416.1110 and 416.1120;
The policy and procedures in this section apply only to members of religious orders who have taken a vow of poverty. No other special provisions apply to SSI eligibility benefit determinations for members of religious orders.
The existence of a vow of poverty is a factor in determining whether cash or in-kind earnings are considered wages or net earnings from self-employment, per RS 01901.600, RS 01901.620, and RS 01901.640. The existence of a vow of poverty is also a factor in determining if payments made by a member to the order can be considered contributions for food, or shelter.
B. Policy — Counting Income for Members of Religious Orders (nuns, priests, monks, etc.)
The treatment of income to members of religious orders who take a vow of poverty is determined by the source and nature of such income.
1. Earned Income - Wages
Cash or in-kind remuneration for members of religious orders who take a vow of poverty is considered wages in any of the following situations:
An individual receives compensation from the order as an active, working member of that order, whether or not the religious order has elected title II coverage.
EXAMPLE: A member of an order works at a hospital which is owned and operated by the order. The member's compensation of $150 per month from the order is earned income.
An active, working member of a religious order receives compensation for performing services from an agency of the church supervising the order or from an affiliated institution, whether or not the religious order has elected title II coverage.
EXAMPLE: A member of an order teaches at a school which is an affiliate of the order's supervising church. The school pays the member $300 per month which is turned over to the order. This amount is earned income.
A member of a religious order receives compensation from a third party for services performed as an employee.
EXAMPLE: A member of a religious order also works for a private firm which pays her $250 per month as a computer programmer. This amount is earned income.
2. Earned Income - NESE
Remuneration for members of religious orders who take a vow of poverty is considered earnings from self-employment only when a member engages in self-employment activity unrelated to his/her membership in the order.
EXAMPLE: A member of a religious order, who is a recognized ornithological expert, submits articles to a magazine, on a free-lance basis, for publication. Any remuneration received is treated as net earnings from self-employment.
3. Unearned Income - From the Order
Any income provided by the order to a member who has taken a vow of poverty, which does not fall under SI 00810.700B.1. or SI 00810.700B.2., is unearned income to the member even if turned over to the order.
EXAMPLE: A cash stipend paid to an inactive member, or a payment unrelated to a member's work, that is made by the order to a member is unearned income.
Food or shelter that is not considered part of a member's wages is in-kind support and maintenance per SI 00835.710. If the food or shelter is earned income per SI 00810.700B.1., it cannot also be considered in-kind support and maintenance.
Any income or resources turned over by the member to the order are considered to be in fulfillment of the vow of poverty and are not considered contributions for food or shelter received from the order.
4. Unearned Income - From Outside the Order
Unearned income received by a member from any source other than the order (e.g., title II or VA benefits) is income to the member even if the member turns it over to the order.
5. Example - Member Receives Earned and Unearned Income
Scenario: Brother Morris, age 74, is considered a retired, inactive member of a religious order. In October 2002, he receives food, shelter, other perquisites, and a cash stipend of $40.00 from the order. In addition, Brother Morris clerks at a private law firm for $500.00 per month and turns these wages over to the order.
Analysis: While working at the private law firm, Brother Morris is considered an employee of the law firm. Therefore, the $500.00 wages he receives from the law firm is counted as earned income. Because he is an inactive member of the order, the $40.00 cash stipend and the food and shelter he receives are counted as unearned income. The FO determines that the other perquisites provided by the order (haircuts and use of a vehicle) are not countable income. The food and shelter provided by the order is in-kind support and maintenance. The DO determines that the actual value of the food and shelter is $210.00. Brother Morris is charged with $500.00 in earned income and $241.66 in unearned income (the presumed maximum value of ISM of $201.66 + $40.00 cash stipend).
Use the following steps to process initial claims and post-entitlement changes involving income of members of religious orders who have taken the vow of poverty.
1. Vow of Poverty Allegation
Accept an individual's allegation that he/she has taken a vow of poverty unless there is a reason to doubt the allegation.
2. Wages - Performing Services For the Order
When a member is performing services for the order, contact the order and document the value of remuneration received in cash or in-kind (valued at full market value), as wages per SI 00820.130 ff. Wages for members whose orders have elected coverage are determined under title II “deemed wage” concept. (See RS 01901.620.)
3. Wages - Performing Services Outside the Order
When a member is performing services for an affiliate of the order, and/or is employed by a third party, develop and document these earnings as wages per SI 00820.130. (Remember to include the value of any in-kind wages provided by the order in determining total wages.)
4. Other Income
Apply the appropriate operating instructions pertaining to other types of earned and unearned income.