Dozens of U.S. Representatives and Senators sent a letter late last week urging the Biden administration to support the inclusion of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program reforms in forthcoming infrastructure proposals. SSI is an income support program for older adults and for adults and children with disabilities who have few resources.
One of the issues the letter flags is the inadequacy of SSI’s income support, which leaves recipients far below the federal poverty level.
The maximum federal benefit is $794 a month for an individual, nearly $300 below the poverty level. Similarly, the maximum federal benefit for a couple is $1,191, nearly $300 below the poverty line.
People receiving SSI are also limited to $2,000 in assets, the same as it was in 1984, and they are limited to earning only $85 per month before there are cuts in their SSI benefits. These rules make it extremely difficult for people receiving SSI support to move into the workplace or establish any income security.
And the punitive rules extend beyond income or assets. Recipients lose SSI benefits if they receive help from family or friends to pay for food, utilities, rent, mortgage, or other needed expenses. Many recipients may be unable to get married because they cannot afford the loss in income that will result.
The Congressional letter urges changes to eliminate these barriers, including raising the SSI benefit to 100% of the federal poverty level, increasing the asset and income limits, and eliminating the penalties for receiving help from friends and families. As the letter points out, President Biden campaigned on protecting and strengthening economic security for people with disabilities and supported each of these SSI improvements.
At Medicare Rights, we know the SSI program is a vital tool to help older adults and people of all ages with disabilities and few resources gain some security. But the program has been stagnant for too long, and its draconian and confusing rules penalize marriage and family support. We applaud the Congressional letter and urge the Biden administration to push for these important SSI improvements and other changes that will help the economic security and well-being of older adults and people with disabilities.