Income Support Program for 8,000,000 Poor Needs to be Strengthened
WASHINGTON DC – The National Senior Citizens Law Center celebrates the fortieth birthday of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which was signed into law by Pres. Richard M. Nixon on October 30, 1972 to replace a variety of state programs providing income support for the elderly poor and people with disabilities.
“SSI has been a vital program for the elderly poor, keeping many from becoming homeless or going hungry and is all that enables many to survive in today’s world. However, it has been seriously neglected over the last four decades and needs to be strengthened,” stated National Senior Citizens Center Executive Director Paul Nathanson.
SSI today is designed to provide an individual with a total monthly income of $698 a month, an amount equal to 74% of the Federal Poverty Level of $937 a month. Some states provide a modest supplement, but in no case does the combined federal benefit and state supplement equal the Federal Poverty Level for an individual.
While the federal benefit is adjusted annually for increases in the cost of living, the formula used systematically underestimates the necessary expenses of a population that is at least age 65 or has serious disabilities. Thus, each year the purchasing power of the monthly benefit falls further behind. Similarly, in order to be eligible for SSI, an individual cannot have more than $2,000 ($3,000 for an eligible couple) in resources (a home, a car and certain other items are exempt). This amount has increased 33% in the last 40 years even though the cost of living today is 5.5 times what it was in 1972.
Here is what President Richard M. Nixon said in introducing SSI in a radio address on Oct. 30, 1972, “[M]illions of older Americans who live in poverty, along with the blind and the disabled, will be helped by a new Federal floor under their income …. Free of the inequities and red tape which plague the present system, this program … can mean a big step out of poverty and toward a life of dignity and independence.”
“It is time to make this program fulfill that early vision and work better for the elderly poor in the 21st century,” Nathanson added. “We will be working with many others to pressure Congress to modernize SSI in the coming year.”
For more information about our position on modernizing SSI, click here.
The National Senior Citizens Law Center is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to protect the rights of low-income older adults. Through advocacy, litigation, and the education and counseling of local advocates, we seek to ensure the health and economic security of those with limited income and resources, and access to the courts for all. For more information, visit our Web site at www.NSCLC.org.