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Poverty and Social Security

Posted on:4/20/2013
Governmental cash assistance in the United States often operates on the principle of categorical eligibility. This means that to be eligible for assistance, a person must be in the right category.

Very few public benefits programs are open to all (or nearly all) poor persons simply because they meet income eligibility standards. More typically, the threshold question is whether a person fits into the category that the program intends to address. For example, the two principal federally assisted cash assistance programs are AFDC and Supplemental Security Income, but to qualify for AFDC, a person must be part of a family with children under age 18, and to qualify for Supplemental Security Income, an individual must be elderly, blind, or disabled.


Supplemental Security Income is a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration. Those with substantial disabilities are candidates for Supplemental Security Income.


No matter how poor, a person who cannot establish categorical eligibility for AFDC or Supplemental Security Income will generally not qualify for federally assisted means-tested cash aid. So being poor alone is not enough qualify for Supplemental Security Income. You must meet the other requirements.


Once an applicant is awarded Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security Administration offers him or her a Ticket to Work— that is, access to a voucher system for obtaining work-related rehabilitation and training. Those who fail to gain Supplemental Security Income awards generally use up TANF eligibility time and possibly are even less employable after having spent time outside the workforce striving to demonstrate absence of employment capacity.

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