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The Problem with the SSI Program

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Timely Issues  > The Problem with the SSI Program

The Problem with the SSI Program

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are paid to disabled persons who do not qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program because they have not paid sufficient Social Security taxes or do not have enough work credits.  The definition of disability and claims process is the same for both SSI and SSDI and in fact, many people are able to apply for both at the same time. The SSI program was designed to provide cash for food, clothing, and shelter it has kept many Americans from becoming homeless. SSI benefits total approximately $771 per month in 2019 (can be more with state supplements) and recipients usually continue to receive Food Stamps and retain their state Medical Assistance card.

When filing an SSI claim, the applicant must show that he or she meets a “needs test” by virtue of low income and resources. This test is similar to the one used to determine whether a person is entitled to Public Assistance.  There are two components to the needs test; income and resources.


The problem with SSI is that most of the SSI eligibility rules have not been updated since the program was signed into law by President Nixon over 40 years ago.  The economy has changed since then. The cost of living today is more than 5.5 times what it was in 1972. In addition, the asset (resource) limit for the program–$2,000/$3,000–has not been updated since 1989. Many Americans are finding themselves unable to qualify for SSDI because they lack work credits, and unable to qualify for SSI because they are over the income and resource limits.

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2019 has recently been introduced and would update these income and asset limits to better reflect reasonable assistance in today’s dollars. The National Association of Disability Representatives has made it easy for you to support this legislation. Simply text “ssirestoration” to 52286 or click here to send a message of support to your representatives.

Osterhout Berger Disability Law handles both SSDI and SSI claims. If you or someone you love is unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment, call us for a free consultation: 1-866-438-8773