Updates needed to SSI program after more than 40 years

The United States government provides a range of different benefits for people who may be in need. Some of these, like food stamps or Social Security retirement benefits, are quite well known. Others, however, like the Supplemental Security Income program, are lesser known. Although SSI-related benefits are both helpful and essential for many Tennessee residents and others across the country, certain rules relating to the income requirements for the program indicate a need for change.

Earlier this month, the SSI program celebrated its 43rd anniversary. Currently, over 8 million seniors and disabled individuals receive cash assistance through this program. However, despite how important these benefits are to the people who receive them, the benefits are not enough: currently the benefit level for a single person is only 74 percent of the federal poverty level. This means that in the majority of cases, these SSI benefits are not keeping people out of poverty.

One of the primary elements of the SSI program that needs updating is the $2,000 resource limit: Individuals with more than $2,000 in resources do not qualify for SSI benefits. The problem is that the cost of living has grown by five and half times since 1972, but this resource limit has only increased by a third over the same period. Currently, there is a bill that would update the SSI program and help recipients exit poverty. The bill is called the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act. It was introduced in the House and has wide support by numerous organizations.

SSI benefits are available to people who are elderly, blind or disabled and who also are classified as poor and indigent. The income requirements are key to receiving benefits as this particular program does not require work history, unlike social security retirement or disability. The SSI program still requires a medical determination like the other programs, but the differences in the eligibility requirements make the application and qualification process distinct.

Source: Huffington Post, “Happy Birthday, SSI, Time for an Update,” Kevin Prindiville, Nov. 13, 2014