Slepian Smith, PLLC

Bill introduced that would raise asset limits for SSI recipients

Supplemental Security Income, known as SSI, is a federal Social Security program that provides monthly payments to eligible American citizens, legal permanent residents and certain other qualified aliens who are disabled, blind or elderly and who meet eligibility requirements of low income and limited assets. In other words, eligible SSI claimants are people who cannot work because of disabling impairments or old age who have limited financial resources, but do not have the kind of robust work history that would have made them eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI instead.

At our law firm, we help people apply for SSI (and SSDI) as well as appeal denied applications. We can explain the complicated financial eligibility provisions, which have been under public scrutiny for some time.

Countable resources

The resource limit for an individual SSI claimant has been $2,000 for many years ($3,000 for a married couple). There has been an outcry from advocates for people with disabilities and for seniors that these limits on resources essentially force people to stay in poverty to preserve eligibility for SSI, which in 2019 pays $719 per month to an individual, subject to deductions in certain situations.

The kinds of assets that count toward this limit include cash, bank accounts, savings bonds, land, cars, personal property and a few others. Basically, anything that could be sold or turned into cash and used for basic needs like housing or food is a countable asset.

However, there are some that do not count, like your residence, one car if you or your household members use it, household goods and certain items of personal property like a wedding ring, and other categories.

There are also complex income limits that could reduce the monthly SSI payment or make a claimant ineligible.

Proposed legislation

On Sept. 11, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona’s Third District, introduced H.R. 4280, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2019. It was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, where it remains as of this writing.

If enacted, the legislation would increase the limit on countable resources to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a married couple. Other reforms would include raising the monthly level of income that could be received without penalty and removing certain other penalties when relatives give a claimant help with housing or food, for example. It would also include cost-of-living adjustments annually for income and resource limits.

 

 

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