New POMS for Social Security
Written by: Christian N. Horde J.D. LL.M.
Most of the Social Security rules come from a single source: The Program Operations Manual System (POMS). They tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) case workers how to understand, interpret and apply the law.
On April 30, 2018, the SSA published a set of four new POMS provisions, effective immediately. Below are some of the more significant changes among those provisions:
- A court order assigning some kinds of income to a trust may make the income non-countable. For example, an SSI beneficiary has an award for child support payments, the court may be able to direct those payments to deposit into a special needs trust. When properly done, the payments are not income for SSI purposes. See SI 01120.201F.3.b.
- Travel issues have concerned advocates for a long time. The new POMS provisions make clear that a special needs trust can pay for travel expenses for the beneficiary and necessary companions. It even acknowledges that sometimes there might need to be more than one companion. It also approves, in limited circumstances, travel by another person to visit the SSI recipient/trust beneficiary. See POMS SI 01120.201F.3.b.
- A given trust might have existed for years, without questions from the SSA. Now, if as case worker brings up new concerns based on changes in SSA’s interpretation, the trustee will usually have 90 days to make changes to the trust. That latitude already existed for some kinds of necessary changes, but the scope has been expanded. See POMS SI 01120.200K and SI 01120.201F.
- The rules for court establishment of a special needs trust have been eased. Previously a significant amount of ambiguity existed, and many case workers thought the key was to look at the words used by the court. The new POMS provisions focus primarily on whether the trust was signed before the court ordered establishment of the trust. See PMOS SI 01120.203B.8.
The Elder Law Center of Kirson & Fuller is well-versed with the SSA/POMS rules and regularly prepares first-party and third-party Special Needs Trusts for our clients’ needs. Contact our office to discuss what options best suit your planning needs.
To view POMS recent changes go to: