The Social Security Administration is making another update to how it calculates Supplemental Security Income benefits, this time to ensure its rules are applied more equitably across the country.

The agency finalized a rule this month adjusting how it handles so-called “in-kind support and maintenance” in the form of a rental subsidy.

Under existing policies, individuals with disabilities can see their SSI benefits reduced if they pay rent or shelter expenses that are lower than the current market value. This often comes into play if a beneficiary is living with a family member who charges less than they would pay on the open market, for example.

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However, because of court rulings, there is a different standard in place in seven states — Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Texas. For SSI beneficiaries in those states, monthly payments are not reduced if an individual is spending more than a third of their income on housing even in cases where their rent is less than the current market value.

With the new rule, Social Security will apply the less stringent standard nationwide. As a result, the agency expects that about 41,000 people will see their SSI payments rise by an average of $132 per month. In addition, an estimated 14,000 more people are expected to qualify for SSI each year.

“Our mission is to continue to help people access crucial benefits, including SSI,” said Martin O’Malley, commissioner of Social Security. “Simplifying and expanding our rental subsidy policy nationwide is another common-sense solution that will improve program equality and will reduce agency time spent calculating and administering rental subsidy.”

The new policy is set to take effect Sept. 30.

The rule change is part of a wide-ranging effort from the Social Security Administration to reconsider how it handles nuances of the SSI program. Last month, the agency said that it would stop counting food as part of “in-kind support and maintenance” beginning this fall and a rule issued last week changes how Social Security factors support from other public assistance programs when calculating SSI payments.

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