Arizona Representative Proposes Improvements to SSI

Last month, Rep. Raul Grijalva, (D – AZ) introduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act as HR 1601.  The bill, if passed, would update several SSI eligibility requirements that have changed little (or not at all) since the bill was signed by President Nixon in 1972.

SSI currently provides sub-poverty income support to 8 million seriously disabled or elderly adults with limited assets and little or no income.  The bill seeks to increase the value of assets that a person can own from $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple) to $10,000 ($15,000 for a couple). It also proposes increasing the amount of earned income that is not counted from $65 to $357 (which is the 2012 equivalent to $65 in 1972) per month.

Provisions that are of interest to Special Needs planners include doing away with counting in-kind support and maintenance as income, and repealing the penalty for transferring resources for less than fair market value while receiving SSI, or within 36 months of applying. Rep. Grijalva believes that the transfer penalty adds to the administrative expense of the program and causes considerable hardship for seriously disabled individuals without accomplishing any worthwhile objective.

Since individuals who receive SSI benefits are also eligible for health care under their states’ Medicaid programs, these changes could also increase access to health coverage for these vulnerable adults, regardless of their states’ decision about expanding Medicaid coverage.

Statements of support, a summary of H.R. 1601, and a fact sheet about the SSI program are available from the National Senior Citizens Law Center, at www.NSCLC. org. For more information on the SSI Restoration Act, please contact Gerald McIntyre at gmcintyre@nsclc.org or (213)-674-2900 or Kate Lang at klang@ nsclc.org or (202)-289-6976, ext. 214.

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