Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

SSI Case Closures

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

SSI Case Closures

Article excerpt

by Satya Kochhar and Charles Scott*

In 1995, about 1,017,100 persons receiving payments from the Supplemental Security Income program had their cases closed and their payments stopped. This figure represents 16 percent of all recipients paid during 1995. The most frequently cited reason for these case closures were excess income and death. Of those cases closed for reasons other than death, 41 percent eventually returned to payment status within 1 year. Based on work done with earlier cohorts, that figure can be expected to rise to nearly 50 percent after 4 years have elapsed.

The number of case closures in a given year is affected primarily by the size of the caseload and the number of reviews that these cases undergo. Despite some fluctuations in the numbers of these reviews over the last 8 years, the overall number of closures as a percent of caseload has remained fairly steady-in the 16- to 18-percent range. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides payments to aged, blind, and disabled individuals whose income and resources are below specified amounts. Each year some of these persons lose their benefits, either for a short period or permanently. This article describes the number, reasons for, and duration of those case closures. It is divided into three sections: The first section describes reasons for the closings in 1995, discusses the permanence of these actions, and shows the relationship between the time on the SSI rolls and the various reasons for case closures; the second section provides a historical perspective on this aspect of the program during the past 9 years (1988 through 1996); the last section provides some perspective on how many persons with case closings in an earlier cohort (1992) were reinstated over a longer time period. This article adds additional information on terminations to a previous article published in the Bulletin (Scott, Winter 1992).


The data for this article were taken from the SSI 1-Percent Sample File. This file is extracted each month from the Supplementary Security Record (SSR), the main administrative file of the SSI program and contains program and demographic variables for all persons who receive SSI payments during the file month. To produce the study cohort for each year, each sample recipient's monthly payment information was matched to that data for the following month to determine whether or not the recipient continued in payment status; for example, January was matched to February, February to March, and so on. After 12 such matches, the study cohort included all closings for the year. Files were produced for the past 9 years, as shown below.

Because the study addresses questions concerning the permanence of these closings, all study cases were followed monthly for 1 year from the time they left the rolls. These monthly updates are included in the study file, except for the 1996 file, for which several months were not yet available. Because a complete followup was not yet available for the 1996 file, this study concentrates on the 1995 file. Standard errors for estimated counts are shown in the Technica Note at the end of the article.

Reasons for Closures

Persons who apply for SSI payments must meet various eligibility criteria. Applicants must be aged 65 or older, or meet the Social Security Administration's (SSA) definition of disability, and have countable resources and income that are below prescribed limits. Those persons who do not meet the eligibility criteria are denied payments. Once recipients begin to receive payments, their continued eligibility is monitored through periodic medical and nonmedical reviews1 to determine if their circumstances have changed. The cases of recipients who are determined to be no longer eligible are closed from the rolls. The administrative records of the SSI program provide a fairly good amount of detail on the reasons for closure:

Excess income. …

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