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Congress Needs to Update SSI Rules

A bill currently pending in Congress could finally reform the Supplemental Security Income program and lift millions of disabled people out of poverty.

Unlike the disability insurance program which grants benefits based on the amount of payroll taxes you’ve paid into the system over the years, SSI is a need-based program with a monthly benefit currently capped at $794 per month for an individual or $1,191 for a married couple.

And due to further income and asset restrictions on the program, the average SSI recipient actually receives less than $600 each month.

Originally signed into law in 1972, the SSI program has been neglected by Congress for decades now. Under its current outdated rules, SSI beneficiaries can see their monthly benefits reduced if they receive more than $20 a month from any outside source.

Recently however, a group of Democratic senators have introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act.

Some of the much needed reforms in the bill would include raising the SSI monthly benefit to 100 percent of the federal poverty line and pegging it to inflation, raising the asset limit to qualify for SSI to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a couple, eliminating the marriage if penalty for a couple receiving SSI benefits, and doing away with penalties that reduce benefits if a claimant receives food or housing assistance.

In short, the bill would drastically improve the lives of a lot of disabled people.

Unfortunately, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act isn’t currently included in the Reconciliation Budget Bill that Congress is expected to pass in the coming weeks, but there is still hope that at least some of its provisions will be included in the final legislation.

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