Articles Posted in Supplemental Security Incom

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Recently a client inquiring about SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits asked me how people are supposed to live on the benefit.  SSI is a disability or retirement program for low income individuals; many of whom do not have a work history or sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security disability or retirement.  The current maximum SSI benefit is $841 for an eligible individual, $1261 for two disabled spouses, and $421 for an essential person to an SSI beneficiary.  Most SSI beneficiaries also receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.  The Food Stamp Program and SSI are critical parts of our national public assistance program.  SNAP benefits increase the income of SSI recipients by about 13%.

In order to qualify for SSI, an individual may not have more than $2000 in countable income or assets.  A couple may not have more than $3000 in countable income or assets.  The SNAP benefits in Georgia have a lower income threshold than SSI.  Thus, if you receive SSI you will be eligible for SNAP benefits.  The monthly SNAP benefit currently for a single individual is $250.  With these combined benefits, a single individual on SSI and food stamps has a monthly income of $1091 assuming no other deductions apply.

The federal government also provides other poverty safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Section 8 Housing Assistance.  However, these programs may not apply to all individuals or they may have waiting lists for available resources.  TANF benefits are a monthly cash assistance for low income families with children under 18.  TANF has a work requirement (thus it would not be applicable for a disabled individual).  Further, TANF, as the name states, is available for a limited period of time.  The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, provides subsidy rent payments directly to a landlord who participates in the program.  Many SSI beneficiaries take advantage of this program.  You can find out more about these assistance programs at the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services here.  You can apply for Section 8 housing vouchers  through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs here.

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The Supplemental Security Income program is a lifesaver for many older and disabled Americans, but the program has undergone no modifications in recent years even as the number of beneficiaries receiving these payments has ballooned. Now lawmakers are proposing changes to the program that would benefit recipients.

Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio called for reforms to the Supplemental Security Income program to make it more accessible as well as more beneficial to the millions who rely on these payments every month. Currently 8 million Americans receive Supplemental Security Income benefits every month. Most of these are older Americans are those who suffer from disabilities. The average Supplemental Security Income beneficiary belongs to a lower economic class, or has other disadvantages in terms of access to resources which make it difficult for him or her to meet daily needs.  These payments are provided for people to meet basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. Disabled children may also be eligible for SSI.

In recent weeks, a Senate subcommittee has been holidng hearings on the proposed reforms to the program.  Lawmakers have introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act which aims to increase the benefits that are paid out to Americans. It is hoped that the reforms will be included on the Build Back Better package, but this may not happen due to cost concerns.

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Navigating the complex labyrinth of health and disability programs that you may qualify for can be confusing. You may be eligible for more than one program that can help you pay for your medical needs and other expenses.

If you have suffered a disability that makes it difficult or impossible for you to go to work and earn a living, you may qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. If you qualify for disability benefits under this program, then you will receive a monthly check to meet your expenses. These benefits depend on the amount of taxes that you have previously paid into the Social Security system.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program, however, is completely different from the Supplemental Security Income program. This program provides benefits to people who are disabled and have a very limited income. In certain cases, individuals may qualify for benefits under both the Social Security Disability Insurance program as well as the Supplemental Security Income program. To understand what kind of benefits you should apply for, talk to a disability attorney.

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The Social Security Administration provides the most extensive social safety net programs in the United States.  Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) pays monthly minimal income to seniors and people with disabilities who receive very low or no Social Security and who are extremely poor.  This program is funded from the general tax revenue.  SSI is a companion program to the Social Security program which provides crucial economic security through retirement and disability to individuals who paid into the program through payroll taxes.  In fiscal year 2021, 7.875 million people are estimated to receive SSI benefits totaling $57.5 billion and 65.767 million people are estimated to receive Social Security benefits totaling $1,145.5 billion.

As crucial as the SSI program is, the benefits are modest.  The stated goal of the SSI program, enacted in 1972, is to provide positive assurance that the country’s aged, blind and disabled population would no longer have to subsist on below-poverty-level income.  In April 2020, 8 million people received SSI benefits that averaged  monthly $576.47.  SSI recipients are allowed $20 of income in a month.  After that, unearned income, pensions, Social Security benefits, and in kind support of food or housing provided by family or friends reduces SSI benefits dollar for dollar.  That amounts to a 100% tax rate.  With respect to earned income, the recipient is allowed the first $65 and after that every dollar earned is reduced in SSI benefits by 50 cents.  That amounts to a fifty percent tax rate.

Today’s program does not come close to meeting the legislative goal.  In 2020 the maximum federal SSI benefit is just over $783/month ($9396 a year).  That benefit is less than three-quarters of the federal poverty guideline, which in 2020, is $1063/month ($12760 a year) for an individual.  Moreover, the federal poverty guidelines likely underestimate what is needed to subsist.  Low income recipients often have to choose between food and other necessities.  The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) found of all U.S. hypothermia deaths, half occur among persons 65 years or older.  The Census Bureau reports that 5.1 million people aged 65 or older in 2018 had incomes below the federal poverty threshold.  One in four of those with a disability live in poverty.

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