Dear Editor:

Individuals and families who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should contact their federal legislators for action on HR4280 and S2753 to update regulations for eligibility. 

HR4280 and S2753, The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2019, are two bills currently in the House of Representatives and the Senate. HR4280 has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee and S2753 has been assigned in the Senate to the Committee on Finance where Senator Bob Menendez sits. In the world of disabilities, this is an opportune time for self-advocates and families to contact their federal representatives and ask them to support these two very important bills that propose massive changes in the SSI system.

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SSI allows people with disabilities to become Medicaid eligible and receive crucial government benefits to support daily functioning. Medicaid is necessary for disabled individuals to receive funding for day programs, assistive technology, behavioral supports, career planning, cognitive rehabilitation, community-based supports,  transportation, environmental modifications, housing, therapies, vehicle modifications and so much more. People with disabilities depend on Medicaid to enhance community inclusion, productivity and independent functioning.

SSI was enacted by Congress in 1972 to provide financial support for people with disabilities to prevent this population from becoming impoverished. However, because the guidelines were fixed decades ago and have remained stagnant, disabled Americans are now forced into poverty to qualify. Among other specifications, SSI recipients must have under $2,000 in assets; they cannot save money. Married couples are further restricted to $3,000. Any food or shelter provided to an SSI recipient must be reported as “in-kind income” and results in lowered SSI payments. If an SSI recipient works, only the first $65 of wages is disregarded before calculating a reduced SSI payment.

Among other improvements, HR4280 and S2753 seek to remedy these outdated regulations by increasing the asset limit to $10,000; eliminating the marriage penalty; removing the “in-kind income” stipulation; and increasing the threshold for disregarded income. Similar bills were previously introduced in Congress, but all died in committees. If people with disabilities and other advocates want to change SSI’s structure, it is crucial to advocate to our federal representatives to act on these bills. Currently, both bills have only Democratic sponsors; however, disability is a bipartisan, human issue and Republican support is critical.

Contact your representatives in the House and in the Senate and ask your friends and family to join your efforts to pass both HR4280 and S2753 into law. These bills will allow people with disabilities to enjoy an improved quality of life with greater independence and dignity.

Sharon Artz
Scotch Plains, NJ