Fed Lawmakers Push to up SSI Disability Benefits

Social security disability benefits claim and pen. Getty Images

Federal Democratic lawmakers are hoping the second time’s a charm for legislation recently re-introduced that proposes a steep raise for people currently living on Social Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. 

The Social Security Income Restoration Act would raise monthly benefits 31% to get older adults and people with disabilities out of poverty, increase assets for individuals up to $10,000 and for couples up to $20,000. The act was first introduced in last year’s legislative session. 

“The promise of Social Security is to ensure that no one in America should live in poverty – least of all our nation’s seniors and people with disabilities. By updating SSI we can deliver on this promise and ensure disabled and elderly Ohioans are able to live with dignity. Congress must prioritize these long-overdue reforms as part of upcoming recovery legislation,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the prime sponsor of the measure in the Senate.

Currently, nearly 8 million elderly and disabled people with a low income and a limited amount of resources rely on the SSI program, including over a million children. Currently, eligible individuals may receive a maximum benefit of $794 ($1,157 for couples) per month. 

Under the re-introduced legislation the caps would also go up for individuals to get outside income in addition to their SSI Disability. This includes for individuals to earn more than $300 a month working and more than $100 a month in assistance from other sources including Social Security, veterans’ benefits and pension payments without a reduction. 

U.S.  Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who introduced the bill in the House noted that SSI’s income rules have never been updated since the program was signed into law in 1972. Additionally, he argued that Congress failed to make necessary updates to the program to ensure that basic needs of the disabled are met.  

“The last year has been especially harsh on these vulnerable populations, and it is time that Congress step up to make these modest but necessary updates to the program for the long-term benefit of those in need,” said Grijalva. 

The measure has also drawn support from several organizations advocating for those on disability.

“I would say this legislation is important because as a black disabled person, social security helped me during the pandemic when I wasn’t working,” said Jermaine Greaves, who runs Black Disabled Lives Matter on Instagram out of New York City.

“Expansion on social security would make sure that many disabled people can not only live, but thrive. Social security has been a survival for people with disabilities, but it can be a system that supports people with disabilities and gives them what they need,” Greaves added. 

Inquiries to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and to Senate Minority Leader U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as to how the GOP lawmakers feel about the legislation were not returned at press time.

 

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