Supplemental Security Income: Fast Facts for Congress and Options for Reform in Economics and Finance, Retirement and Social Security

October 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides crucial monthly assistance to nearly 8 million aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no earnings. SSI beneficiaries—40% of whom live in poverty even with these benefits—are only allowed to have assets of up to $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple), with few exceptions. Unfortunately, policymakers have not revisited these limits since 1984, leading to increasing financial hardship for households and major administrative inefficiencies for the government.

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.

Preparing SSI for the Next 50 Years: Two Reform Options

  • bipartisan, bicameral proposal from 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) would raise the SSI asset limits to $10,000 (for individuals) and $20,000 (for couples) and index the limits to inflation going forward.
  • A Bipartisan Policy Center commission recommended exempting $25,000 of retirement savings from SSI asset limits, mitigating the perverse incentives beneficiaries currently face to not save for retirement.