SSA Notices to Include Explanations on Trusts

Beneficiaries of irrevocable trusts and trustees administering assets for individuals who rely on public benefits based on financial need, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), may be interested in a recent Social Security Administration (SSA) publication of internal instructions (an “Emergency Message – EM”).  EM-16012 instructs SSA staff to provide more detail regarding the reasoning for an agency decision when a trust, such as a special needs trust, is found to render a person ineligible for benefits. 

Any SSA manual notice of excess resources due to a trust now must include:  (a) information on which specific section of the trust contains the problematic language or issue, (b) the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) citation that contains the SSA policy requirements on the subject, and (c) a reference to where the POMS can be found on-line.   The SSA Emergency Message, issued 3/2/16, is available online at

EM-16012 should arm trustees and beneficiaries with more information by limiting future SSA notices concerning trusts that have little to no detail as to the agency’s reasoning for denying benefits.