SSA has revised several sections of its POMS pertaining to victims of domestic violence. The revision came about in response to advocacy by the Empire Justice Center on behalf of victims of domestic violence who were facing complicated bureaucratic hurdles when they had to flee from their homes to escape abuse.
Last year SSA issued an Administrative Message reminding claims representatives to use particular care and sensitivity when requesting evidence from individuals who are fleeing from a domestic abuse situation. AM-0521 is available on the Empire Justice Center’s on-line resource center as DAP #419. SSA also promised to seek regulatory changes clearly providing for the “exclusion of a jointly-owned home for an individual who is fleeing a domestic violence environment.”
In the meantime, SSA has made revisions to the existing POMS. Sections SI 00601.100 (Information/Evidence – General), SI 01110510 (Sole vs. Shared Ownership), SI 01130.100 (The Home), and SI 01130.130 (Real Property Whose Sale Would Cause Undue Hardship, Due to Loss of Housing, to a Co-Owner) were all revised in March 2006. These revisions provide important protections for victims of abuse who are unable or afraid to obtain the required statements or documents of ownership from their abuser spouses. They also provide that a home may continue to be an excluded resource in some situations where the co-owner has fled an abusive situation.
Please keep us informed of how this is working – or not working – for victims of domestic violence.