Tell Congress: Fix SSI in the Reconciliation Bill!
Almost 8 million seniors and disabled Americans rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through Social Security to meet their basic needs, including over 1 million children. But for nearly 50 years, public policy has forced those disabled Americans and seniors to live in poverty.
Add your name to tell Congress to include in upcoming recovery legislation the long-overdue improvements for Americans depending on SSI that President Biden campaigned on:
1. Increase monthly benefits to at least the Federal Poverty Level.
SSI’s maximum monthly benefit in 2021 is just $794 per month, equivalent to roughly three-quarters of the Federal Poverty Level for an individual. That’s too low. No one can live on $794/mo. In fact, nowhere in the U.S. is this enough to afford even a 1 BR apartment -- even if you spent 100% of your benefits on rent.
2. Raise SSI’s outdated asset limit.
Under current law, SSI beneficiaries are prohibited from having even modest emergency savings. The program’s asset limits—set at $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple—have not been updated since 1989, and have lost significant purchasing power to inflation over the more than three decades during which they’ve remained stuck at those levels. SSI’s asset limit should be increased to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples, or better yet, eliminated altogether.
3. Update SSI’s income rules.
Another key element of the SSI program that has been in need of an update for decades is SSI’s income exclusions, which allow beneficiaries who are able to work to supplement their meager SSI benefits, if they are able to do so. While SSA “disregards” the first $65 of earned income and the first $20 of “unearned” income per month, monthly SSI benefits are reduced for every dollar over those thresholds. Those amounts were last updated in 1972! The earned income disregard should be increased to $416 and the unearned disregard should to $128 to bring these levels up for inflation. In addition to being updated, they should be indexed to inflation moving forward.
4. Eliminate the “in-kind support and maintenance” rule.
Due to this cruel and archaic policy, even though SSI benefits aren’t enough to live on, an SSI beneficiary who is considered to have received in-kind support—such as a bag of groceries from a family member to help them have enough food for the month, or a place to stay to ensure they have a roof over their head—can see already-sub-poverty-level benefits reduced by one-third.
5. Abolish marriage penalties.
It is not only economic security that is out of reach for SSI beneficiaries: marriage is also off the table, due to SSI’s current rules. The program’s harsh marriage penalties reduce monthly benefits by one-quarter for SSI beneficiaries who marry another SSI beneficiary—and can result in loss of benefits altogether for those who marry someone not receiving SSI. No one should be forced to choose between life-sustaining income support and marrying the person they love.
Please include these essential improvements that will help millions of seniors and disabled Americans in upcoming recovery legislation.