On October 30, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into the law a crucial program that provides benefits to 8 million Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled. Last month marked the 40th anniversary of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This post is a reminder and overview of the program and commemorates 40 years of a benefits service that has helped to reduce poverty and assist those with the greatest need.
The SSI program has played a critical role in reducing poverty, helping recipients meet their basic needs and avoid homelessness. Rather than costly and isolating private institutions, the program allows individuals with disabilities to survive in their own communities throughout Charlotte, North Carolina and nationwide. SSI replaced a number of state and federal programs that provided financial aid to the elderly and disabled. When the bill was signed into law, President Nixon noted that the existing programs subjected recipients to great inequities and red tape. A federal study found that the quality of life of those who are elderly or disabled and poor improved since they were transferred to SSI.
Attitudes towards those with disabilities have shifted in the last century. A 1962 survey found that people with disabilities should be cared for in institutions rather than at home. Now most Americans believe that disabled persons should be able to rely on family and community care. SSI is a support system that allows disabled persons to seek local and personalized stable housing and treatment.
Though benefits are about 75 percent of the federal poverty level for a single person, they are critical to reducing poverty among the elderly and those with disabilities. SSI is also a vital lifeline for families who have children with disabilities, especially low-income families in need of support.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Happy Birthday, SSI: A Safety Net for Vulnerable Americans," Donna Meltzer, Oct. 30, 2012