Senate Bill Updates SSI and Would Help Elder Poor

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2014 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The bill, championed by the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC),would fix key elements of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program that currently make life difficult for millions of low-income older adults.

“Millions of vulnerable Americans who struggle just to get by depend on Supplemental Security Income to help take care of their families, but inflation has significantly decreased the ability to qualify for SSI benefits, hurting seniors, the disabled and blind, and more than one million children,” said Sen. Brown. 

“SSI is a critical program that helps millions of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens keep their heads above water,” said Senator Warren . “I’m very pleased to join Senator Brown to introduce the SSI Restoration Act, which will help strengthen SSI for families who rely on these essential benefits.”
The legislation would update rules such as one that recognizes the value of past work by disregarding the first $20 of Social Security Retirement or other monthly income when determining SSI eligibility, a rule that hasn’t been updated in more than 40 years.  The SSI Restoration Act will increase the disregard to $110 to account for inflation.  The bill also increases the amount of resources an SSI recipient can retain from $2,000 to $10,000 so that they can respond to emergencies such as a home repair or the replacement of an old car. The bill also eliminates the harsh provision that reduces the monthly benefit whenever someone receives food or housing for less than fair market value from another person, including family members.

“We hear many stories from consumer advocates about elderly SSI recipients who cannot pay for food, or needed medical care because they exceeded the resource limit or received too much support from a family member and lost part or all of their benefits,” said NSCLC Executive Director Kevin Prindiville.  “Sadly, some poor seniors face homelessness when they lose even some of the already meager income SSI provides.”

An identical bill, H.R. 1601, was introduced in the House last April by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AR) and has 13 co-sponsors. The House bill has been endorsed by 50 national and local organizations, including NSCLC.

“Recipients, their families and all of us owe Sen. Brown and Sen. Warren many thanks for advancing one of the most important fixes we can make to this program,” Rep. Grijalva said. “This shouldn’t be a political football. Everyone agrees it can be improved, and they agree on how badly it’s needed. The full Senate should take this bill up and pass it as soon as possible, and the House should do the same.”

SSI provides subsistence-level income to two million older adults with very limited financial resources who are either age 65 or over or cannot perform substantial work because of a severe disability. More than two thirds of older adults receiving SSI payments are women and one out of every three applying for the program has a primary language other than English.

“We hope that many others in the Senate will join Sens. Brown and Warren as co-sponsors to help make these needed changes into law this year,” Prindiville said. 

Source:  National Senior Citizens Law Center

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