*a copy of this letter was also sent to the House of Representatives
June 28, 2021
The Honorable Sherrod Brown
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Brown:
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to endorse your bill, S. 2065, ett. The National Committee commends you for introducing this bill, which strengthens and restores the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for the 8.3 million low-income seniors and people with disabilities that depend on the program for basic income support.
Your bill updates provisions in the SSI program that are woefully out of date, some of which have never been adjusted for inflation since the program’s enactment in 1972. For example, since 1972, annual cost of living adjustments have resulted in a five-fold increase in the SSI monthly benefit, but the maximum benefit amount remains well below the federal poverty level. Your bill would increase the benefit to 100 percent of poverty, an increase of 31 percent.
Rules that disregard a portion of an individual’s income when determining an individual’s eligibility for SSI benefits have not changed in 45 years, and the general income exclusion has remained constant at $20 per month, while the monthly exclusion for earnings is still $65. Your legislation would update all of those levels to more accurately reflect economic changes over the decades.
Another shortcoming of the SSI program is its asset limit. Since 1989 this limit has been set at $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a married couple. This unrealistic limit prevents many truly needy people from qualifying for SSI. The SSI Restoration Act would increase this limit to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for an eligible couple, which represents more realistic amounts for planning for emergencies and other unexpected expenses.
This legislation also eliminates a number of provisions of the current program that have never made much sense. Included among them are limitations on the payment of retroactive benefits, especially the one that places severe restrictions on how past-due benefits owed to children can be spent. The SSI Restoration Act also eliminates an antiquated provision regarding family relationships. Under this provision, the current-law reduction in benefits that are paid to individuals who hold themselves out to the community as if they were married even though they are in fact not married is eliminated.
The SSI Restoration Act also eliminates a rule requiring a loss of some benefits for SSI beneficiaries who also receive non-cash in-kind assistance. This provision is unfair to affected individuals and has proven to be enormously difficult for the Social Security Administration to administer. Elimination of this provision would both make the program fairer and simplify its administration.
The National Committee proudly endorses S. 2065, the “Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act.” This bill represents an important step in modernizing this long-neglected program, and we thank you for your leadership in this important endeavor.
President and CEO