In-Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program

The rules surrounding in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program are confusing and often result in significant reductions in individuals’ already meager benefits. If an SSI recipient is receiving “in-kind support and maintenance” in the form of free or subsidized food and/or shelter from others, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will treat that support as unearned income and reduce the individual’s benefits by as much as one-third. ISM determinations are made on a monthly basis.

This guide is designed to help advocates understand common ISM issues. It includes explanations on how SSA evaluates ISM, case examples, advocacy strategies, and sample materials. This guide does not cover other issues regarding income and resources, such as gifts or over-payments.

In the majority of cases, ISM problems can be resolved at the field office level. Advocates should consult and cite SSA’s Programs Operations Manual System (POMS) when working with field offices to resolve individuals’ ISM issues. POMS SI 00835.000 (“Living Arrangements and In-Kind Support and Maintenance”) is the subchapter containing all of the POMS sections relating to ISM.

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