Businessman pointing to social security on screen

Disability advocates are optimistic that the upcoming $3.5 trillion budget bill could bring the much-awaited updates to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The disability program has remained unchanged for several decades.

Pressure to Update the SSI Program

Pressure is mounting on Congress to overhaul the entire SSI program in the ongoing reconciliation bill. Some of the potential updates to the program include increasing the benefits and raising the asset limit that has remained the same since 1984.

In an interview with Disability Scoop, D-Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said improvements to the program have taken too long to come. He added that Washington had turned its back on the SSI program and vowed to push his colleagues to ensure that won’t be the case this time. According to Sen. Brown, updating the SSI program could improve the quality of life for millions of U.S. citizens.

Monthly Benefit Amount and Ongoing Eligibility

More than eight million U.S. citizens collect SSI benefits every month. Individuals are eligible for up to $794 per month, while couples collect a maximum of $1,191 every month. These figures are, however, higher in certain states. For ongoing eligibility, assets that beneficiaries can own are capped at $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples.

Potential Updates to the SSI Program

While campaigning for the presidential seat, President Joe Bidden backed numerous updates to the SSI program, such as increasing the benefits to approximately the federal poverty level and moving up the asset limit. He also supported the removal of penalties for marrying or obtaining in-kind support from family members or friends. 

In early August, the Senate approved a detailed plan consisting of the reconciliation bill’s main areas of focus. Income Policy Senior Director Bethany Lilly of The Arc is optimistic that the reconciliation package will contain some long-needed improvements to the program.

Right to Representation                                    

The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows disability benefits applicants to have a representative from the initial application to the approval level. In Chicago, a social security attorney can advise a disability benefits applicant on his or her alleged disability onset day, determine whether his or her condition satisfies SSA’s definition of disability, and help the applicant focus on convincing facts. At the hearing level, the attorney can gather medical evidence, get a medical letter of support from the applicant’s doctor, and guide the applicant on how to answer questions of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).