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Proposed Rule

Exclusion of Certain Military Pay From Deemed Income and Resources

Action

Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking.

Summary

We propose to revise our rules to clarify that, for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) purposes, we do not consider any combat-related military pay as income when we determine whether spouses and children of members of the uniformed services are eligible for SSI. The proposed rules also would clarify that we do not consider combat-related military pay as income when we determine the spouse's or child's proper payment amount. These proposed rules also would provide that, when we determine whether spouses and children are eligible for SSI, we do not consider retroactive payments of certain military pay as resources for 9 months following receipt. These proposed rules would protect spouses and children of members of the uniformed services from a reduction in, or loss of, benefits because their spouse or parent serves in a combat zone.

Unified Agenda

Exclusion of Certain Military Pay From Deemed Income and Resources (978F)

4 actions from June 11th, 2009 to March 24th, 2010

  • June 11th, 2009
  • August 10th, 2009
    • NPRM Comment Period End
  • February 22nd, 2010
  • March 24th, 2010
    • Final Action Effective
 

Table of Contents Back to Top

DATES: Back to Top

To be sure that we consider your comments, we must receive them no later than August 10, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Back to Top

You may submit comments by any one of four methods—Internet, facsimile, regular mail, or hand-delivery. Commenters should not submit the same comments multiple times or by more than one method. Regardless of which of the following methods you choose, please state that your comments refer to Docket No. SSA-2008-0051 to ensure that we can associate your comments with the correct regulation:

1. Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. (This is the most expedient method for submitting your comments, and we strongly urge you to use it.) In the “Search Documents” section of the Web page, type “SSA-2008-0051,” select “Go,” and then click “Send a Comment or Submission.” The Federal eRulemaking Portal issues you a tracking number when you submit a comment.

2. Telefax to (410) 966-2830.

3. Letter to the Commissioner of Social Security, P.O. Box 17703, Baltimore, MD 21235-7703.

4. Deliver your comments to the Office of Regulations, Social Security Administration, 922 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on regular business days.

All comments are posted on the Federal eRulemaking portal, although they may not appear for several days after receipt of the comment. You may also inspect the comments on regular business days by making arrangements with the contact person shown in this preamble.

Caution: All comments we receive from members of the public are available for public viewing on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Therefore, you should be careful to include in your comments only information that you wish to make publicly available on the Internet. We strongly urge you not to include any personal information, such as your Social Security number or medical information, in your comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Back to Top

Eric Skidmore, Social Insurance Specialist, Social Security Administration, Office of Income Security Programs, 252 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401, (410) 597-1833, for information about this notice. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, Social Security Online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Back to Top

Electronic Version Back to Top

The electronic file of this document is available on the date of publication in the Federal Register at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html.

Background Back to Top

The SSI program provides a minimum income level for aged, blind, and disabled persons who do not have income or resources above levels specified in the Social Security Act (the Act). The Act generally requires that when we determine a person's eligibility for, and amount of, SSI benefits, we must consider the income and resources of an ineligible spouse living in the same household and, in the case of a child under the age of 18, an ineligible parent living in the same household (and the spouse of such a parent). Section 1614(f) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 1382c(f). We use the term “deeming” to refer to the process of considering part of an ineligible spouse's or parent's income and resources to be the person's own income and resources.

Although a member of the uniformed services on active duty is unlikely to apply or be eligible for SSI benefits, some members of the uniformed services have spouses or children who receive or may apply for SSI benefits. For purposes of deeming, the Act provides that a spouse or parent who is absent from the household solely because of a duty assignment as a member of the Armed Forces generally will be treated as if he or she were living in the household. Section 1614(f)(4) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 1382c(f)(4). Therefore, we generally deem income and resources of the member of the uniformed services to his spouse or child when determining the spouse's or child's eligibility for, and amount of, SSI benefits. Because we consider the member of the uniformed services as part of the household, we do not treat his military pay as unearned income from a source outside of the household.

Although we generally deem income of a member of the uniformed services to his spouse or child, the Act excludes from income certain kinds of pay that members of the uniformed services may receive. Section 1612(b)(20) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 1382a(b)(20). In particular, we exclude from income special pay received pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310. Members of the uniformed services are eligible for special pay during months in which they are subject to hostile fire or certain other dangerous conditions specified in 37 U.S.C. 310. Our current regulations implementing section 1612(b)(20) of the Act exclude “hostile fire pay” received under 37 U.S.C. 310 from income and from deeming to spouses and children. 20 CFR 416.1124(c)(19) and 416.1161(a)(23). We are proposing to replace the term “hostile fire pay” in these sections of our rules with the term “special pay” to clarify that we exclude from income all special pay that a member of the uniformed services received pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310.

We are also proposing to add a new paragraph to our rules on deeming of income to spouses and children that excludes from deeming additional types of combat-related pay beyond special pay under 37 U.S.C. 310. The Act allows us to waive the deeming of income and resources to a spouse or child when we determine that deeming would be inequitable. Section 1614(f) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 1382c(f). Effective October 1, 2002, we issued instructions under this statutory authority to exclude from a spouse's or child's deemed income any additional pay that members of the uniformed services received because they were deployed to or served in a combat zone. We determined that it would be inequitable to deem that pay as income and reduce a family member's benefits or potentially render the family member ineligible for SSI. We are now proposing to incorporate this exclusion and the definition of the term “combat zone” in our SSI rules.

We are also proposing to revise our rules on deeming of resources to spouses and children to exclude retroactive payments of certain kinds of military pay for 9 months following receipt. Congress has retroactively and permanently increased the amount of special pay under 37 U.S.C. 310 and the family separation allowance under 37 U.S.C. 427. Pursuant to section 1614(f) of the Act, we issued instructions excluding retroactive payments of the increase in special pay received after September 2002 from a spouse's or child's deemed resources for a period of 9 months following the month of receipt. Our instructions similarly excluded retroactive payments of the family separation allowance that a member of the uniformed services received as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone. We determined that it would be inequitable to apply the usual resource deeming rules to these retroactive payments in recognition of the hardships experienced and sacrifices made by members of the uniformed services and their families. We are now proposing to revise our SSI rules to incorporate these exclusions.

Finally, we are proposing to revise the punctuation at the conclusion of § 416.1161(a)(25), (a)(26), and (a)(27). We are also proposing to clarify some of the language in § 416.1202(a) and (b)(1) and to reorganize portions of § 416.1202(b)(1) to make that section easier to understand. We are proposing these changes solely to improve the clarity of these rules, and these changes would have no substantive effect on our policies or procedures.

Explanation of Proposed Changes Back to Top

We propose to amend the regulations in 20 CFR, part 416, subparts K and L, to reflect the changes discussed above. In summary, we propose to:

1. Revise § 416.1124(c)(19) and § 416.1161(a)(23) to replace the term “hostile fire pay” with the term “special pay.” We propose this technical clarification to conform the regulatory language to the statutory language in section 1612(b)(20) of the Act.

2. Amend § 416.1160(d) to add a definition of the term “combat zone.”

3. Amend § 416.1161 by adding new paragraph (a)(28) to exclude from income deemed from an ineligible spouse or parent any additional increment in pay, other than any increase in basic pay (e.g., annual pay raises, promotions), if:

  • The spouse or parent received the additional pay as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone; and
  • The spouse or parent was not receiving the additional pay immediately prior to deployment to or service in a combat zone.

4. Revise the punctuation at the conclusion of paragraphs (a)(25), (a)(26), and (a)(27) of § 416.1161.

5. Revise paragraphs (a) and (b)(1) of § 416.1202 to exclude from resources deemed from an ineligible spouse or parent (or spouse of a parent), for 9 months following the month of receipt, the unspent portion of any retroactive payment of:

  • Special pay the ineligible spouse or parent received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310; and
  • Family separation allowance the ineligible spouse or parent received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 427 as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone.

6. Clarify some language in paragraphs (a) and (b)(1) of § 416.1202, and reorganize portions of paragraph (b)(1).

Clarity of These Rules Back to Top

Executive Order (E.O.) 12866, as amended, requires each agency to write all rules in plain language. In addition to your substantive comments on these proposed rules, we invite your comments on how to make them easier to understand.

For example:

  • Have we organized the material to suit your needs?
  • Are the requirements in the rules clearly stated?
  • Do the rules contain technical language or jargon that isn't clear?
  • Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing) make the rules easier to understand?
  • Would more (but shorter) sections be better?
  • Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or diagrams?
  • What else could we do to make the rules easier to understand?

Regulatory Procedures Back to Top

Executive Order 12866

We have consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and determined that these proposed rules meet the requirements for a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, as amended. Thus, they were subject to OMB review.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

We certify that these proposed rules would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, because they affect only individuals. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis as provided in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended, is not required.

Paperwork Reduction Act

These proposed rules do not pose any public reporting requirements and are, therefore, not subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program No. 96.006, Supplemental Security Income)

List of Subjects in 20 CFR Part 416 Back to Top

  • Administrative practice and procedure; Aged
  • Blind
  • Disability benefits; Public assistance programs; Reporting and recordkeeping requirements; Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Dated: June 3, 2009.

Michael J. Astrue,

Commissioner of Social Security.

For the reasons set out in the preamble, we propose to amend subparts K and L of part 416 of chapter III of title 20 Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:

begin regulatory text

PART 416—SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME FOR THE AGED, BLIND, AND DISABLED Back to Top

Subpart K—[Amended] Back to Top

1. The authority citation for subpart K of part 416 continues to read as follows:

Authority:

Secs. 702(a)(5), 1602, 1611, 1612, 1613, 1614(f), 1621, 1631, and 1633 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1381a, 1382, 1382a, 1382b, 1382c(f), 1382j, 1383, and 1383b); sec. 211, 93, 87 Stat. 154 (42 U.S.C. 1382 note).

2. Amend § 416.1124 by revising paragraph (c)(19) to read as follows:

§ 416.1124 Unearned income we do not count.

* * * * *

(c) * * *

(19) Special pay received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310;

* * * * *

3. Amend § 416.1160 by adding the definition of “Combat zone” in paragraph (d) to read as follows:

§ 416.1160 What is deeming of income?

* * * * *

(d) * * *

Combat zone means

(i) Any area the President of the United States designates by Executive Order under 26 U.S.C. 112 as an area in which Armed Forces of the United States are or have engaged in combat;

(ii) A qualified hazardous duty area (QHDA) Congress designates be treated in the same manner as an area designated by the President under 26 U.S.C. 112, provided the member of the uniformed services serving in this area is entitled to special pay under 37 U.S.C. 310; or

(iii) An area where the Secretary of Defense or his designated representative has certified that Armed Forces members provide direct support for military operations in an area designated by the President under 26 U.S.C. 112 or a QHDA, provided the member of the uniformed services serving in the area certified by the Secretary of Defense or his designated representative is entitled to special pay under 37 U.S.C. 310.

* * * * *

4. Amend § 416.1161 as follows:

a. Amend paragraph (a)(23) by removing the words “Hostile fire pay” and adding the words “Special pay” in their place;

b. Remove the word “and” at the end of paragraph (a)(25);

c. Remove the period at the end of paragraph (a)(26) and add a semicolon in its place;

d. Remove the period at the end of paragraph (a)(27) and add “; and” in its place; and

e. Add paragraph (a)(28) to read as follows:

§ 416.1161 Income of an ineligible spouse, ineligible parent, and essential person for deeming purposes.

* * * * *

(a) * * *

(28) Any additional increment in pay, other than any increase in basic pay, received while serving as a member of the uniformed services, if—

(i) Your ineligible spouse or parent received the pay as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone; and

(ii) Your ineligible spouse or parent was not receiving the additional pay immediately prior to deployment to or service in a combat zone.

* * * * *

SUBPART L—[Amended] Back to Top

5. The authority citation for subpart L of part 416 continues to read as follows:

Authority:

Secs. 702(a)(5), 1602, 1611, 1612, 1613, 1614(f), 1621, 1631, and 1633 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1381a, 1382, 1382a, 1382b, 1382c(f), 1382j, 1383, and 1383b); sec. 211, 93, 87 Stat. 154 (42 U.S.C. 1382 note).

6. In § 416.1202:

a. Revise the second sentence and remove the third sentence of paragraph (a);

b. Add new paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), and (a)(3); and

c. Revise paragraph (b)(1).

The additions and revisions read as follows:

§ 416.1202 Deeming of resources.

(a) * * * In addition to the exclusions listed in § 416.1210, we also exclude the following items:

(1) Pension funds that the ineligible spouse may have. Pension funds are defined as funds held in individual retirement accounts (IRA), as described by the Internal Revenue Code, or in work-related pension plans (including such plans for self-employed persons, sometimes referred to as Keogh plans);

(2) For 9 months beginning with the month following the month of receipt, the unspent portion of any retroactive payment of special pay an ineligible spouse received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310; and

(3) For 9 months beginning with the month following the month of receipt, the unspent portion of any retroactive payment of family separation allowance an ineligible spouse received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 427 as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone (as defined in § 416.1160(d)).

(b) * * *

(1) General. In the case of a child (as defined in § 416.1856) who is under age 18, we will deem to that child any resources, not otherwise excluded under this subpart, of his ineligible parent who is living in the same household with him (as described in § 416.1851). We also will deem to the child the resources of his ineligible stepparent. As used in this section, the term “parent” means the natural or adoptive parent of a child, and the term “stepparent” means the spouse (as defined in § 416.1806) of such natural or adoptive parent who is living in the same household with the child and parent. We will deem to a child the resources of his parent and stepparent whether or not those resources are available to him. We will deem to a child the resources of his parent and stepparent only to the extent that those resources exceed the resource limits described in § 416.1205. (If the child is living with only one parent, we apply the resource limit for an individual. If the child is living with both parents, or the child is living with one parent and a stepparent, we apply the resource limit for an individual and spouse.) We will not deem to a child the resources of his parent or stepparent if the child is excepted from deeming under paragraph (b)(2) of this section. In addition to the exclusions listed in § 416.1210, we also exclude the following items:

(i) Pension funds of an ineligible parent (or stepparent). Pension funds are defined as funds held in IRAs, as described by the Internal Revenue Code, or in work-related pension plans (including such plans for self-employed persons, sometimes referred to as Keogh plans);

(ii) For 9 months beginning with the month following the month of receipt, the unspent portion of any retroactive payment of special pay an ineligible parent (or stepparent) received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 310; and

(iii) For 9 months beginning with the month following the month of receipt, the unspent portion of any retroactive payment of family separation allowance an ineligible parent (or stepparent) received from one of the uniformed services pursuant to 37 U.S.C. 427 as a result of deployment to or service in a combat zone (as defined in § 416.1160(d)).

* * * * *

end regulatory text

[FR Doc. E9-13621 Filed 6-10-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4191-02-P

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