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Supplemental Security Income

Posted on:5/31/2012
The Supplemental Security Income program provides benefits to lowincome elderly and disabled or blind individuals who satisfy both income and asset eligibility requirements.


The Supplemental Security Income program provides benefits to lowincome elderly and disabled or blind individuals who satisfy both income and asset eligibility requirements. Authorized in 1972 by Title XVI of the Social Security Act, the SSI program began in 1974 to provide a nationally uniform guaranteed minimum income for the aged, blind, and disabled.

To be eligible for SSI payments, monthly income must be under the federally guaranteed payment level. Over 5 million low-income individuals receive SSI. Approximately, one-third were eligible on the basis of age, the rest due to disability or blindness.

Becoming eligible for SSI is difficult and can be a demeaning process. The paperwork is imposing and documentation requirements are strict. Recipients must provide personal information about who they live with and what others contribute to them. Those most likely to be eligible are unlikely to have the language, education, or physical ability to fulfill stringent requirements (such as bank statements, receipts, an address). Only about one-half of older people eligible to participate in the SSI program receive benefits, although the Social Security Administration launched several outreach programs in the early 1990s to increase awareness about the program.

SSI is an example of the need to better coordinate social services. SSI    applicants must file for all other benefits to which they may be entitled and certain benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps, may depend upon SSI eligibility.

Besides the complexity and amount of paperwork involved, the problem for beneficiaries is that categorical eligibility varies among programs. Conflicting definitions and eligibility groups may confuse recipients and discourage them from seeking all services possible. Despite its inadequacies in reaching the most vulnerable and needy, SSI is the program of last resort for the poorest in our country.


  
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