The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021 (SSI Restoration Act) is an attempt to patch holes in the SSI program. The purpose of SSI is to provide a safety net so that people living in poverty do not become destitute. Current economic conditions make it harder than ever for people who rely on SSI benefits to avoid going hungry or experiencing homelessness. However, many people do not realize that for individuals younger than full retirement age, can qualify for SSI by virtue of being disabled so long as they meet the strict financial eligibility rules.
The SSI Restoration Act would bring the financial eligibility rules in line with today’s economic realities. A Michigan SSDI attorney could help you navigate the application process for SSI and other government benefits. Here is an overview of what you should know about the SSI Restoration Act.
The Current SSI Program
The maximum federal SSI payment for 2022 is $841 a month for an individual, and $1,261 for a couple, according to the Social Security Administration. The federal poverty guidelines for 2022 are $13,590 a year for an individual and $18,310 a year for a couple.
Stated on a monthly basis, the federal poverty level is $1,132 a month for an individual and $1,525 a month for a couple. In other words, a person who is elderly or disabled and relies on SSI benefits to survive will be living significantly below the federal poverty level. Consigning people to abject poverty because they are old or disabled is not acceptable.
What the SSI Restoration Act Wants to Do
The SSI program might have been appropriate 50 years ago when the benefits program started, in 1972. The problem lies in the fact that the asset and income eligibility rules have not changed in 50 years. Also, benefits have not kept up with the increased cost of living.
Proponents of the SSI Restoration Act want to accomplish these goals:
- Raise the asset limit. Currently, an individual can only own $2,000 of countable assets and $3,000 for a couple. The last time this asset limit was increased was in 1989. In the more than 30 years since that increase, the cost of assets has increased substantially. Using 30-year-old numbers means that people can own fewer actual assets to fall within the asset limits.
- Increase the SSI monthly benefits from below the federal poverty level to match the current poverty level. Also, indexing these benefits to inflation will prevent eligible beneficiaries from seeing the purchasing power of their SSI check dwindle with each passing year.
- Allow SSI recipients to earn up to $399 a month from working and receive up to $123 a month in other types of assistance, like Social Security, pensions, and veterans benefits without having those amounts reduce their monthly SSI check. The current income limits have not been updated since 1972. Also, after getting updated, the income limits should get indexed every year to keep up with current economic realities.
- Get rid of the current marriage penalty that exists in the SSI system. Each recipient should receive the individual benefit level.
- Eliminate the in-kind help rules that reduce monthly benefits that SSI beneficiaries might receive from relatives or friends, like food or housing.
These improvements to the SSI program would offer motivation to recipients to try to earn some income that could restore their dignity and remove the roadblocks to them returning to employment. More importantly, updating the SSI program would be a fair and moral thing to do.
A Michigan SSDI attorney could advocate for you and handle your appeal if your application for SSI or SSDI benefits got denied. Get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.