SSA Now Refers All SSI Trust Cases to the Experts
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has begun routing all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications that feature trusts through Regional Trust Reviewer Teams (RTRTs) staffed with specialists who will review the trusts for compliance with SSI regulations. The jury is out on whether this change will speed up the SSI application process for people with special needs trusts.
Prior to the change, there was no standardized system for reviewing trusts in SSI applications, and local field offices often made eligibility determinations based on their reading of the SSA’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS) trust guidelines. If a field office could not make an informed decision about a trust, it was supposed to forward the trust to its Regional Office for further review there. Unfortunately, this step often caused significant processing delays and often contradictory decisions from the various Regional Offices, to say nothing of the field offices.
Under the new system, which went into effect on April 28, 2014, via Emergency Message -14026, all SSI applications featuring trusts must be routed to the RTRTs after the field office has performed its initial review of the document. The RTRTs, which are staffed with SSA workers who specialize in trusts, will review the field officer’s decision and either approve it or correct it before returning it to the field office for final adjudication. If a field office disagrees with the RTRT’s decision, it can submit the trust to the Regional Trust Lead (RTL) for further review. The RTRTs will also review pooled trusts for compliance with state and federal laws and SSA regulations.
The SSA has also released its Trust Training Fact Guide, which will be used by the RTRTs and field offices when they evaluate special needs trusts. This guide provides valuable insight into the SSA’s thinking when it comes to evaluating trusts, although it doesn’t contain any information that cannot be gleaned from a careful reading of the POMS.