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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach
veterans' pensions or government-provided in-kind assistance) and the first $65 of earned income plus one-half of remaining earnings. Blind recipients are also allowed to deduct reasonable work expenses, and disabled recipients are also allowed to deduct work and living expenses caused by their disabilities. SSI recipients must apply for other benefits, such as Social Security, for which they are eligible. Also, if a recipient is living in another person's household and receiving support and maintenance from that person, that support is valued as income to the recipient in the amount of one-third of the federal benefit standard. The income of an ineligible spouse or parent also figures into the recipient's income. Finally, SSI recipients cannot have countable assets that exceed $2,000 for individuals or $3,000 for married couples.
As of January 1994 the maximum federal SSI benefit for a single individual living in his or her own home was 77 percent of the corresponding official 1993 poverty threshold; for couples, the maximum benefit was 92 percent of the corresponding threshold. State SSI supplements vary, although not as widely as AFDC payment levels. In looking at only those states (about half) that supplement the federal benefit for single aged people, the median combined federal-state benefit in those states was 83 percent of the official 1993 poverty threshold, with a range from 77 to 142 percent. The addition of food stamps raised the median benefit in these states to 95 percent of the poverty threshold, with a range from 92 to 156 percent (U.S. House of Representatives, 1994: Tables 6-1, 6-7, 6-8).
Pensions for Needy Veterans, Their Dependents, and Survivors
The federal government provides pensions to veterans who served honorably for at least 90 days (including at least 1 day of wartime service), who are totally and permanently disabled for reasons not related to their military service, and who have incomes below the prescribed limits. (Veterans disabled during military service are eligible for disability compensation payments, for which there is no income test.) Survivors of veterans who die from a nonservice cause who meet the income test are also eligible for pensions.
There are different definitions of countable income for veterans who established pension eligibility at different times. For those entitled after January 1979, virtually all of their income is counted with the exception of public or private cash welfare aid. In addition, veterans must meet an asset test, in which a determination is made of whether their property (excluding a home and personal effects) is of sufficient value that it could be converted to provide income support.
Maximum pension amounts (paid to those with no countable income) are about the same as the official poverty thresholds for veterans with no more than two dependents. For widows and widowers and for veterans with three or more dependents, the maximum pension amounts are 60-80 percent of the corresponding poverty thresholds.