TN 21 (04-12)

SI 02005.030 Effect of Changes in Couple’s Status on SSI Payment Computations

A. Identifying situations that affect couple status

1. Effective date of change in couple status

Effective October 1, 1990 and later, when an eligible couple forms or separates, the status change is effective with the first of the month following the month of change.

Example: Effective date of change for eligible couple:

If the members of an eligible couple separate on February 20, 2011, they are no longer a couple effective March 01, 2011.

2. Situations when recipients form an eligible couple

Two title XVI recipients form an eligible couple when:

  • they marry and begin living together;

  • they hold out as husband and wife and begin living together. For information about holding out, see SI 00501.152;

  • they resume living together while married or while holding out as husband and wife;

  • they resume holding out as husband and wife; or

  • the ineligible spouse becomes eligible to receive title XVI benefits.

3. Situations that end eligible couple status

Eligible couple status ends when:

  • a member of the couple dies;

  • the couple divorces;

  • the holding out relationship ends;

  • the couple no longer lives in the same household (e.g., a separation); or

  • a member of the couple becomes ineligible.

B. Determining the eligibility computation month when a couple’s status changes

The eligibility computation month for the new status, either as a couple or an individual recipient, is the first month following the month of change. To be eligible, the recipient or couple must meet all factors of eligibility in that month including income and resources. For additional information about when couple computation rules apply, see SI 00501.155. For information about the application effective date, see SI 00601.009.

1. Title XVI recipients get married and live together

Two title XVI recipients become an eligible couple the month following the month they marry and begin living together. In that month, they must meet all the factors of eligibility to be an eligible including income and resources.

Example: Effective month of change when title XVI recipients become an eligible couple

  • Adrian Pennino and Rocky Balboa both receive title XVI payments in a state without supplementation.

  • They marry and begin living together September 27, 2011.

  • Their eligibility computation month as a couple is October 2011. The value of their combined countable resources is $2200.00, which is less than the countable limit for an eligible couple.

  • Their countable monthly income of $1280.00 (after the $20.00 unearned income exclusion) exceeds the monthly couple Federal benefit rate (FBR) of $1011.00.

  • Therefore, they are not an eligible couple in October 2011 based on the eligibility computation for October 2011. However, if their countable income for October 2011 was less than the couple FBR ($1,011), they would be an eligible couple in October 2011.

2. An eligible couple separates and no longer lives together

The first month after the month the eligible couple separates, each member becomes an eligible individual if each continues to meet the title XVI eligibility requirements for an individual. We use the individual computation to determine eligibility and payment.

Example: Effective month of change when an eligible couple separates and no longer lives together

Betty and Barney Rubble receive title XVI payments as an eligible couple.

  • Barney receives a monthly title II benefit of $250.00, Betty’s monthly title II benefit is $500.00.

  • They separate on October 11, 2011, and move into their own apartments. Each has countable resources of $800.00.

  • Their eligibility computation month is November 1, 2011 and, they each become eligible as an individual:

Betty                                                     Barney

$674.00 FBR (11/2011)                        $674.00 FBR (11/2011)

- 480.00 (countable income for Nov)   - 230.00 (countable income for Nov)

$ 194.00 FBR eligibility met                $444.00 FBR eligibility met

C. Determining the budget month when a couple’s status changes

1. Rules for determining the budget month

The budget month is the month that is 2 months prior to the computation month, unless the Transitional Computation Cycle (TCC) applies. For more information on TCC, see SI 02005.005.

In both initial claims (IC) and post entitlement (PE) situations, the budget month must be the same month for both members of an eligible couple.

If the couple separates and had in-kind support maintenance (ISM) in the form of the couple’s presumed maximum value (PMV) or the couple’s value of one-third reduction (VTR) in the budget month, count half the couple PMV or VTR for each eligible individual.

When determining the budget month, it is also necessary to consider the following instructions:

  • for Title II/Title XVI COLA coordination, see SI 02005.010.

  • for PMV/VTR COLA coordination, see SI 02005.001E.4.b..

  • for prospective accounting (instead of retrospective monthly accounting for income based on needed, see SI 02005.025.

  • for applying the VTR and PMV when computing Title XVI benefits, see SI 02005.001E.4.

  • for determining the correct start date month, see SM 01801.034.

2. Determining the budget month when two eligible individuals begin living together and form an eligible couple

When two eligible individuals get married or start holding out as husband and wife, and begin living together, they become an eligible couple. The budget month for both of them is the regular retroactive monthly accounting (RMA) budget month for the member of the couple with the latest budget month. The same rule applies to a previously separated couple whose title XVI eligible members resume living together.

Example 1: budget month when two eligible individuals get married

  • Wilma and Fred Flintstone married and began living together on August 26.

  • Their combined resources are within the title XVI eligible couple limit. Wilma has been receiving title XVI payments for years. She received a cash gift of $1500.00 from an aunt in July and was not eligible for that month.

  • Wilma was N01 for July, but was eligible again in August. Fred has been receiving title XVI for the last 2 years without interruption. September is their eligibility computation month as an eligible couple (i.e., the month after the month of change).

  • Their budget month as an eligible couple is August because the budget month for an eligible couple must be the same for both members of the couple. The budget month for both of them is the regular RMA budget month for the individual with the latest budget month.

  • Fred’s budget month was July and Wilma’s budget month was August. Therefore, their budget month as an eligible couple is August.

Example 2: budget month when two eligible individuals begin holding out

  • Edna Krabappel receives a title XVI payment of $674.00 each month.

  • Millhouse Van Houten receives a title II payment of $400.00 and a title XVI payment of $294.00 monthly.

  • On November 11, 2011, they begin living together and holding out as husband and wife. Their eligibility computation month as an eligible couple is December.

  • Beginning December 1, 2011, they are an eligible couple. Since both have been continuously eligible for title XVI payments, their budget month as a couple for December is October 2011.

  • Based on October’s income, each member of the couple is eligible for $315.50 in December 2011.

3. Determining the budget month when an eligible couple separates and resumes living together

When two members of a couple resume living together, they are a couple for title XVI purposes the month after they resume living together. Their eligibility computation month as a couple is the first month after the month they resume living together, providing both members are eligible that month. Their budget month is the regular retrospective monthly accounting (RMA) budget month for the member of the couple with the latest budget month.

NOTE: TCC will apply if one or both of the members are not eligible until they regain couple status. See SI 02005.005 for information about TCC.

Example 1: couple separates

  • Homer Simpson and Elaine Benes receive title XVI payments as an eligible couple from August 2005 until October 20, 2010 when they separate.

  • Elaine moves in with her sister and is subject to the VTR as of November 2010.

  • Homer continues to live in their apartment and receives no ISM.

  • Each is an eligible individual as of November 1, 2010 with a regular RMA budget month of September 2010.

  • In computing each individual’s payment in November 2010, use that individual’s own income from September 2010—not one-half of their combined income.

NOTE: If this couple had received ISM in the form of the couple’s PMV or VTR in the September 2010 budget month, the claim representative would count half of the couple’s PMV or VTR as income to each eligible individual when determining the payment amount for November 2010. For more information about applying the VTR and the PMV when computing title XVI benefits, see SI 02005.001E.4.

Example 2: couple resumes living together

On June 1, 2011, Homer and Elaine resume living together in a new apartment where they pay their own household expenses. They intended to reside here from the first moment of the month. Both have been eligible for title XVI as individuals. June 2011 is the eligibility computation month. Based on their combined income and resources, they are eligible as a couple in June 2011. Since they were both continuously eligible for title XVI, the couple’s budget month is April 2011.

Payment Computation for June 2011 (budget month is April 2011)

Homer’s title II in April 2011$400.00
Elaine’s state pension in April 2011  $200.00
Elaine’s individual VTR in April 2011$224.66
Total Income in the Budget Month   $824.66
Less General Exclusion      -$20.00
Equals: FCI in Budget Month  $804.66
Couple’s FBR in June 2011  $1011.00
Less: FCI in Budget Month-$804.66
Equals: Payment to Couple $206.34 ($103.17 each)

The payment is the same in July 2011, since we continue to count the VTR as income to Elaine in budget month of May 2011

Payment Computation for August 2011 (budget month is June 2011)

Homer’s Title II in June 2011   $400.00
Elaine’s state pension in June 2011$200.00
Total Income in the Budget Month   $600.00
Less General Exclusion   -$20.00
Equals: FCI in Budget Month    $580.00
Couple’s FBR in August 2011     $1011.00
Less: FCI in Budget Month   -$580.00
Payment to Couple   $431.00 ($215.50 each)

D. Determining the budget month when an ineligible spouse becomes eligible

When an ineligible spouse becomes eligible, determine the couple’s eligibility using a couple’s eligibility computation in the newly eligible spouse’s E02 month. The couple’s eligibility computation determines whether we can consider them an eligible couple. For information about the E02 month, see SI 00601.009C.

The newly eligible spouse’s E02 month is the month of application, or the first month of eligibility, whichever is later, based on that application. The currently eligible spouse remains an eligible individual during the newly eligible spouse’s E02 month.

Compute benefits for the currently eligible spouse as an eligible individual in the newly eligible spouse’s E02 month. Follow regular RMA rules to determine the budget month for this month.

The newly eligible spouse needs no payment computation for the E02 month because no payment is due. Deeming from the newly eligible spouse to the already eligible spouse applies in the E02 month.

The first month of the new TCC for the eligible couple is the first month in which both are in payment status (PS) C01 (current pay). The E02 month is never part of the TCC. The first month of the TCC is also the budget month for the eligible couple. For TCC policy, see SI 02005.005.

Example 1: Ineligible spouse becomes eligible in month of filing

  • Ralph Kramden is an eligible spouse receiving title XVI benefits of $674.00 monthly since July 2009.

  • His ineligible spouse, Alice, becomes eligible for title XVI benefits with a filing date of September 15, 2010.

  • Alice’s E02 month is September 2010.

  • A couple’s eligibility computation for September 2010 determines they are eligible as a couple.

  • In September 2010, we compute Ralph’s payment as an eligible individual with an ineligible spouse using July as the budget month. Deeming of Alice’s income applies to Ralph.

  • Alice needs no payment computation for September 2010 because no payment is due in her E02 month.

  • The first month of the new TCC for the eligible couple is October 2010, the first month we pay them based on the eligible couple’s rate of $1011.00. The first month of the TCC, October, is the budget month for the couple.

Example 2: Ineligible spouse becomes eligible in a month after the month of filing

  • Marcy D’Arcy is 67 years old. She has received title XVI benefits since her 65th birthday.

  • Her husband Jefferson receives title II benefits and files a title XVI application on October 2. He will be 65 years old on November 7 and is not disabled or blind.

  • They become a title XVI eligible couple in December. Although Jefferson has a protective filing date of October 2, he is not eligible until November 7. Therefore, his title XVI eligibility (E02) month is November.

  • Marcy receives title XVI as an individual for October and November and both receive title XVI as an eligible couple beginning December. Deeming from Jefferson to Marcy applies in October and November based on Jefferson’s income in the applicable budget month

  • December is the first month of the TCC and is the budget month for the couple.

Example 3: Ineligible individual becomes eligible and windfall offset involved

  • Jack has been receiving benefits as an eligible individual with his ineligible spouse, Jill. The field office processed an offset computation on Jack’s record and his retro title II is offset is for January 1, 2011 through March 2011. Joe’s title II is $1300.00 for January 2011 through March 2011.

  • In June 2011, Jill becomes eligible title XVI beginning November 2010, and is eligible in months where her spouse Jack has already been paid title XVI benefits, but had his retro title II benefits offset in those months. Jill does not receive title II.

  • Jill’s eligibility is a post entitlement event in Jack’s windfall period (January 2011 - May 2011); therefore, she will not receive any title XVI payments for the months that are in the windfall period because Jack’s title II monthly benefits exceed the couple’s FBR.

NOTE: If Jack’s title II benefit does not exceed the couple’s FBR for any month during the windfall-offset period, perform a special couple’s computation. For instructions about the special couple’s computation, see SI 02005.030F in this section. For instructions about windfall offset, see GN 02610.005.

E. Determining the budget month when an eligible spouse becomes ineligible or dies

When one member becomes ineligible, the remaining eligible individual’s budget month is the regular RMA budget month. Count only the eligible individual’s own income under RMA including half of the VTR or PMV received by the couple in the budget month, unless the TCC applies. For instructions about the TCC, see SI 02005.005.

Example 1: eligible spouse becomes ineligible

  • Al and Peggy Bundy have been receiving title XVI as an eligible couple for several years. Peggy also receives title II disability benefits of $370.00 monthly; and Al receives a pension from his union of $300.00 monthly.

  • Peggy has a continuing disability review (CDR) and is determined to have medically recovered, with a disability cessation date of July 14, 2011. Peggy is due a title XVI payment for August and September, because payment continues for 2 month after disability cessation before termination, provided she did not request statutory benefit continuation.

  • Beginning October 1, 2011, Al is an eligible individual with an ineligible spouse. In October, Al’s budget month is August. Therefore, we based the October payment on his income for August including the income deemed from his spouse.

Example 2:eligible spouse dies

  • Archie and Edith Bunker receive title XVI benefits as an eligible couple. He receives Veterans income of $230.00 and title II benefits of $120.00 monthly. She receives title II benefits of $240.00 monthly and gross wages of $100.00 weekly paid on Fridays.

  • On June 23, 2011, Archie was in an automobile accident, and hospitalized for a week before he returned home. The insurance company paid him a settlement payment of $2250.00 for pain and suffering on August 17, 2011.

  • This resulted in ineligibility for the couple in August due to the insurance payment, which makes September the first month of a new TCC.

  • Archie dies on September 22, 2011. As of October 1, 2011, Edith is an eligible individual with a budget month of September 2011 based on the TCC. Her October 2011 title XVI payment is $256.50 based upon her $500.00 wages and $220.00 Social Security benefit in September.

REMINDER: If the couple had ISM in the form of the PMV or the VTR in the budget month, count half of the couple PMV or couple VTR as income to the eligible individual.

F. Special couple’s computation when one member already receives SSI and the spouse becomes eligible

We pay an eligible couple the couple’s FBR minus the couple’s countable income. Generally, each member of the couple receives a payment equal to one-half of the amount due the couple. However, each member does not receive one-half of the amounts due the eligible couple in the following situation.

Assume that one of the members received title XVI payments, and subsequently the other spouse becomes eligible for title XVI benefits for some months for which we already paid title XVI benefits. In this situation, the newly eligible spouse is due an amount for the overlapping months that is equal to the difference between the amount the couple would be due minus what we paid the one spouse as an individual.

The Social Security Act only provides for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to pay title XVI benefits to an eligible couple. It does not provide that each member be eligible to half of the couple FBR. SSA made a decision to pay each member of an eligible couple half of what the couple is due. However, if we already paid one member of the couple for a month, then we only can pay the other member an amount so that the total paid equals the amount due the couple. For couple computation rules, see SI 00501.155.

G. Couple’s computations with Optional State Supplementary (OSS) payment level

The computation rules for formation or dissolution of an eligible couple are the same for OSS as for federal computations.

1. Eligible couple living together

We determine the title XVI payment amount by selecting an OSS payment level based on the couple’s living arrangement variation for the State of residence.

We compute OSS eligibility and payment amounts jointly, and we divide the payment due the couple by 2. In selecting the OSS payment levels, use the State's couple payment level for their living arrangement variation.

Some States provide different payment levels by category or living arrangement. For multi-category or multi-living arrangement couples living together, average their individual OSS payment (unless the State provides specific couples multi-category levels). Some multi-category couple payment rates may not include all possible living arrangements and require force due or force pay processing. For force due and force pay instructions, see SM 01701.001.

2. Eligible couple status terminates

In selecting OSS payment levels, use the State's level for individuals in the same variation and category for the month the change is effective.

H. Payment computations when a couple’s status changes and OSS is payable

1. Determine month of couple status change

Determine the month a couple forms or terminates. For information about the effective date of change, see SI 02005.030A in this section. To determine when couples computation rules apply, see SI 00501.154.

2. Federal eligibility test

For the effective month of change, determine eligibility as a couple or individual using the Federal eligibility test in SI 02005.001B. If eligibility exists for the computation month, complete the payment computation.

3. Payment computation

a. Step 1

Determine the budget month as an eligible couple or individual, using instructions found in SI 02005.030C in this section.

b. Step 2

Determine the couple’s countable income for the budget month and subtract from the couple’s FBR.

  • If a couple separates and ISM applies for the first of the month (FOM) residence, divide it evenly between the two recipients for the month of separation, see SI 02005.001E.4.

  • If a couple forms, subtract the couple’s countable income (CI) from the couple FBR and OSS rate (if any). The result is the amount the couple is eligible to receive.

  • If one member of the couple already received a payment for the computation month, perform a “special couple computation” according to SI 02005.030F in this section.

  • If a couple dissolves, subtract each individual’s CI from the individual FBR and OSS rate (if any). The result is the amount each individual is eligible to receive.

I. References

  • SI 00501.154 Determining When Couple Computation Rules Apply

  • SI 00501.155 Couple Computation Rules for Applications Filed On or After August 22, 1996

  • SM 01801.034 Selection of the Appropriate Start Date Month and Timing of T30/T33/SD Transmissions.


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SI 02005.030 - Effect of Changes in Couple's Status on SSI Payment Computations - 06/05/2014
Batch run: 06/05/2014
Rev:06/05/2014