Supplemental Security Income

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 What Is Supplemental Security Income?

A federal cash benefit program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is supported by ordinary tax receipts rather than social security taxes. The aged and disabled (65 years and older) receive a monthly stipend to pay for necessities like food, shelter, and clothing.

By filling out a brief form on the SSA’s website, individuals or their helpers can begin the application process for SSI benefits. Within 1-2 weeks, SSA officials will set up an appointment for the person or helper and finish the procedure.

SSI was developed to replace federal-state adult assistance programs run by state agencies and was criticized for having inconsistent eligibility standards but provided the same objective. The goal of revamping these programs was to harmonize the eligibility standards and benefit levels.

SSI is funded through U.S. Treasury general money, not the Social Security trust fund, although being administered by SSA. About five million Americans will benefit from the program as of July 2022.


President Richard Nixon’s efforts to improve the nation’s welfare services led to the legislation establishing the program. The Aid to the Blind, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, and Aid to the Elderly programs of the time were relatively unique to each state. These initiatives were developed as a part of the 1935 Social Security Act and received federal financing.

According to the Nixon administration, the Social Security Administration should be in charge of these programs. As a result, SSI was developed to do away with state-by-state variations, such as disparate disability standards and income and resource restrictions, which many saw as unreasonable or discriminatory.

On October 30, 1972, President Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972, establishing the SSI Program. By federalizing state-run programs, the SSI program started operating formally in January 1974. The Social Security Administration (SSA) was chosen to oversee the SSI program.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) was chosen because it has been managing the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs linked to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll taxes’ Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (DIB) program for workers who are insured since 1956.

The average monthly benefit for a retired worker under the Social Security retirement benefits program and the original benefit levels for SSI in 1972 were roughly the same. In order to automatically boost SSI benefits by the same proportion and concurrently with Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability benefits, Congress passed legislation in August 1974.

The highest SSI payout for a person in 2020 was $783, equating to around 52% of the typical monthly income retired workers receive through the Social Security retirement benefits program ($1,503).

Initial Social Security benefits are calculated using wage indexing even though both SSI and Social Security benefits are modified by price inflation.

The maximum SSI payment will continue to fall short of Social Security benefit levels since incomes typically grow faster than prices.

The maximum SSI payout for an individual in 2020 ($783) is less than the $1,084 monthly federal poverty level for an individual in the United States. This will remain the case going forward, absent any legislative changes, as both the SSI benefit and the poverty standard are adjusted to price inflation. About 42% of SSI recipients are considered poor when taking into account their SSI benefits and other household income.

While “critics regularly accused the U.S. social welfare system of skewing benefits toward the middle class, rather than the truly poor,” historians Edward D. Berkowitz and Larry DeWitt contend that SSI successfully targeted assistance to economically vulnerable groups like minorities. In 2020, the adult SSI population was made up of roughly 28% African Americans (about 13.4 percent overall U.S. population is African American). 18% of SSI users who are 75 or older identify as Asian American, 20% as African American, and 20% as Hispanic.

Children with disabilities have always been invariably eligible for SSI. A significant Supreme Court ruling from 1990, Sullivan v. Zebley, allowed more kids to be eligible for SSI because of their disabilities. Brian Zebley was born with a brain injury, which led to physical and mental issues like sight issues and partial paralysis.

The Supreme Court determined that SSA had unjustly denied him compensation and concluded that when determining a child’s disability, SSA must take into account how health issues affect the functioning of youngsters. According to a report from 2020, SSI beneficiaries for children have “high rates of poverty, near poverty, material hardship, hospitalization, death, and bad education results relative to other children.

According to a 2019 study, infant death rates for SSI child applicants are almost five times higher than those for all kids.

Although there are certain exceptions, people who want to receive SSI payments must live in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands. The covenant defining the Northern Mariana Islands’ status as a U.S. territory included SSI eligibility in 1976 (the year the SSI program started).

The “aged, blind, and disabled” are eligible for federal payments in the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, although inhabitants are not qualified for SSI. Since Puerto Ricans do not pay most federal taxes, the Supreme Court determined in United States v. Vaello Madero in April 2022 that excluding them from the SSI program is constitutional.

SSA occasionally provides benefits for married persons based on a couple’s income. This would happen if a couple’s two members both met the categorical eligibility standards, such as if both individuals met the program’s criterion of disability.

To account for the fact that two persons living together can live more affordably than if each lived alone, the benefit payable to a couple in certain situations is less than the combined benefit payable to two individuals. However, because only those who are lawfully married are eligible for the decreased SSI couple benefit, beneficiaries are disinclined to get married.

Supplementary Security Income Eligibility

SSI benefits are given by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to people who are “aged, handicapped, or blind.”

Aged refers to someone who is 65 years of age or older. A person is deemed to have achieved a certain age under the majority of federal laws on the day before their birthday.

“Disabled” is defined as being unable to perform any major work due to a serious bodily or mental impairment that has lasted for at least a year or can be expected to result in death.
Visual acuity of 20/200 or below is considered blind.

Additionally, a person’s income must be below a specified threshold in order to qualify. This maximum varies depending on the applicant’s state of residence, kind of housing, and source of income. Candidates must be citizens of the United States or be legally residing there. However, citizens of the United States who do not reside in the country could not be qualified.

Contesting the SSA’s Judgment

If your SSI application was turned down, you have limited time to appeal the decision. You must ask the SSA for a hearing in order to do this.

Getting Legal Advice

If a lawful application is denied, a lawyer can assist with the appeal process if the applicant needs assistance determining their eligibility for social security benefits. An applicant can also get assistance from a social security attorney who has experience with social security issues in navigating the Supplemental Security Income system’s bureaucracy.

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