Social Security SSI Forces Millions To Live In Poverty Indictment Senator Brown – Community News
Social Security

Social Security SSI Forces Millions To Live In Poverty Indictment Senator Brown

Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program forces millions of people into poverty, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said today.

During the Senate’s first hearing on SSI in the Senate Finance Committee since 1998, Brown claimed that millions of disabled and elderly Americans are living well below the poverty line since the program’s eligibility rules haven’t been updated for decades:

“They are punished if they try to save for an emergency.”

“They are punished if they try to find a part-time job.”

“They will be punished if they accept food or shelter from generous relatives and members of the community.”

“They are punished even if they are married.”

Currently, SSI has 7.8 million beneficiaries, including children, individuals with severe disabilities, and low-income elderly people. The average monthly payment in August was $586 for all individuals and $476 for those over 65. The maximum monthly benefit of $794 was three quarters of the federal poverty line.

Brown told the hearing that the SSI Restoration Act he introduced this year with 20 co-sponsors will increase SSI benefit levels to the federal poverty level, halve poverty among SSI beneficiaries, and simplify and update eligibility rules.

SSI rules create hardship for both caregivers and the beneficiaries themselves, AARP argued in a letter to the hearing.

For example, AARP noted that the benefits of SSI can be reduced by a third if a beneficiary lives in another person’s household and does not pay for all of his or her food and shelter.

The group called on Congress to amend SSI’s rules to support informal care arrangements and eliminate the one-third reduction in benefits for recipients who live in someone else’s household and do not pay for food or shelter.

Elizabeth Curda, director of education, human resources and income security at the Government Accountability Office, said GAO has been complaining for years that the Social Security Administration has faced challenges in managing SSI for years, challenges that affect people in the program.

She noted that the SSI income compensation, in effect, imposing a high marginal tax on work — $1 for every $2 earned, or 50 percent — that is higher than other federal aid programs discourages beneficiaries from getting a job. as well as the fear of having to pay back overpayments.

She explained that overpayments can occur when beneficiaries who work fail to report their earnings to SSA in a timely manner or SSA delays in adjusting their benefit amounts.

Overpaid SSI occurs most often when beneficiaries’ savings exceed $2,000; when their wages exceed $65 per month; and when they receive in-kind support from family and friends, senior policy analyst Kathleen Romig of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said during the session.

In evidence of the difficulty the Social Security Administration has in managing the program, she said SSI benefits make up only 5 percent of SSA payments, but it requires 35 percent of the agency’s budget to administer.

Applying to get on SSI can take people who want to get the benefits for years, said Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

“Every year, thousands of people die or go bankrupt while waiting for disability benefits. The current application process is so cumbersome that it is often said that you need a law degree to access disability benefits,” the activist said.

She explained that most people who were lucky enough to navigate the application process and qualify for benefits could not afford their daily living expenses, even with SSI, because benefits are so low.

Ives-Rublee, a former SSI beneficiary, called the policies for the program “archaic” with benefits so low that they cause real harm to those who participate in the program.