The federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash benefits to older adults, blind individuals, or people with disabilities with very low incomes and resources. States may supplement this income. SSI eligibility often allows older people to receive other important means-tested benefits such as Medicaid and food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAPSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) SNAP provides a monthly supplement for purchasing nutritious food. If you qualify, you’ll get a debit card to use for groceries. Also commonly called Food Stamps. , formerly the Food Stamp Program). In 2014, 9.3 million people received SSI benefits. Of that total, 2.3 million people were age 65 or older.
SSI benefits do not go far enough to keep recipients out of poverty. The maximum annual federal SSI benefit in 2017 is only $8,830 for an individual and $13,245 for a couple.
One SSI rule can create financial hardship for family and other caregivers. SSI benefits may be reduced by one-third if a beneficiary lives in another person’s household and does not pay for food and shelter (in-kind support and maintenance) that he or she receives.
Another threat to eligibility is the age threshold. Congress has considered legislation that would increase the age to qualify for SSI benefits from 65 to 67 for those who qualify under the aged category. Although some individuals between the ages of 65 and 67 might qualify for SSI on the basis of disability, many would likely be left out.
Supplemental Security Income: Policy
The federal SSI benefit level should be increased to bring beneficiaries up to the poverty level, and states should supplement those payments.
The rule that reduces benefits by one-third for SSI recipients who live in someone else’s household and who do not pay for food or shelter should be eliminated in order to support informal caregiving arrangements.