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Accomplishments of SSI program after 40 years

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October 30 marks the 40th anniversary of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon and established in 1972, SSI replaced a mix of existing federal-state programs for the aged, blind and disabled. In his signing statement, President Nixon observed that the existing patchwork of state and federal programs were inequitable and subjected the recipients to "considerable red tape inherent in the present system of varying State programs with different benefits, eligibility standards, and rules."

Forty years on, has the program worked? Here are some of the benefits realized by SSI:

  • Reduced costly and harmful institutionalization of disabled children by providing parents with the resources to keep them at home
  • Reduced poverty and near poverty among families with disabled children
  • Established a comprehensive disability evaluation process
  • Provided a safety net for disabled adults and the elderly who did not qualify for Social Security Disability benefits

Who receives SSI?

People who receive SSI include disabled adults and children, the blind and the elderly. Because SSI is a need based program, only a small proportion of all the children and adults with disabilities are eligible for SSI - around 1.6 percent of all children in the United States, for example.

Who pays for SSI?

SSI disability payments do not come from the Social Security trust funds. Rather, they come from general U.S. Treasury funds. However, Social Security manages the program.

How difficult is it to apply for SSI?

The SSI application process can be confusing because of very precise income eligibility criteria and special rules that apply only to disabled children. Especially challenging are the exceptions to income rules. For example, if you work and receive income, the portion of your income that you use to pay for a wheelchair or special transportation to work will not be counted against you in determining your eligibility for SSI benefits.

Because applying for benefits can be challenging, it is a good idea to get help from a lawyer or advocate who thoroughly understands the rules that apply to SSI claims. At Binder & Binder®, the National Social Security Disability Advocates, we have helped thousands of people get the benefits they need. We can help you, too.

Source: Frost Illustrated, "40 years of helping people in need," Oct. 17, 2012.

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