BPC Action Applauds Bipartisan, Bicameral SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act in Retirement and Social Security

BPC Action applauds Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and James Lankford (R-OK) and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Brian Higgins (D-NY) for reintroducing the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act. This bill aims to address the regressive, anti-saving asset limits in the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides monthly cash assistance to nearly 8 million older and disabled people with very low incomes. 

With narrow exceptions, SSI’s rules limit beneficiaries’ assets to a mere $2,000 (or $3,000 for a couple). Anyone exceeding these limits, which have been frozen for nearly 40 years, is immediately disqualified from the program. Such low limits, however, leave beneficiaries unable to save for unexpected expenses—let alone for retirement—without jeopardizing the monthly assistance that is often barely enough to provide support for beneficiaries in poverty. The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act would address this disincentive by increasing the resource limits to $10,000 (or $20,000 for married couples) and adjusting those limits annually for inflation. 

As members of Congress debate this legislation, BPC Action urges lawmakers to consider a variety of approaches to mitigating this pernicious disincentive. One such approach, proposed by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings, would exclude up to $25,000 of savings in retirement accounts from asset tests for SSI and other public programs. This change would send a clear message to the most financially vulnerable Americans that taking financially responsible steps to prepare for the future will not be punished with reduced benefits.  

BPC Action commends this effort to modify SSI’s asset limits and stands ready to assist as Congress seeks to address this critical issue in the context of our broader fiscal challenges. 

Fast Facts on SSI 

  • SSI provides monthly cash assistance to nearly 8 million older and disabled people with very low incomes. 
  • SSI’s asset limits have not changed in nearly 40 years, leaving today’s beneficiaries able to save only half the amount (in real dollars) that beneficiaries in the 1980s were allowed to save. 
  • Each year, approximately 70,000 beneficiaries have their benefits suspended and another 40,000 have their benefits terminated for saving too much. 
  • Adjusting SSI’s asset limits would garner significant public support, with one poll showing 78% of Americans in favor.