Celebrating Supplemental Security Income

This week, The Arc celebrates the40th anniversary of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), our nation’s safety net for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

Forty years ago, many people with significant disabilities – like intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – who were unable to support themselves with work or savings were forced to rely on a patchwork of state income support programs. Each state had its own rules for who could get benefits, for how long, and for how much – and not every state offered aid.

In 1972 SSI replaced this fragmented, woefully inadequate system with a national program offering a minimum monthly income for low-income people with significant disabilities and the elderly. On signing SSI into law, President Richard M. Nixon noted that “This legislation once again provides dramatic and heart-warming evidence that America is the country that cares-and translates that humanitarian care into a better life for those who need, and deserve, the support of their fellow citizens.”

In 2012, SSI provides monthly cash benefits to over 8 million children and adults, including many with I/DD.

The Arc knows that SSI is a lifeline for people with I/DD – and that it’s so much more than dollars and cents. SSI helps many adults with I/DD secure housing to help them live in the community and pay for essentials like clothing, transportation, and utilities. It helps parents of children with I/DD meet the costs of raising a child with a significant disability, and replaces lost income when a parent must take time off work to help care for a child. Without SSI, many people with I/DD would face terrible consequences including potential homelessness or institutionalization.

This week we celebrate SSI’s 40th anniversary, and call on Congress to keep SSI strong for another 40 years. The Arc is fighting to keep SSI from being cut as part of Congressional deficit reduction efforts, and has many ideas for strengthening SSI, including ways to make SSI work better for beneficiaries who wish to work.

Subscribe to The Arc’s Capitol Insider for updates to learn how you can help make sure that SSI and other vital programs are there for people with I/DD.

Social Security Administration Announces 1.7% Cost-of-Living Adjustment for 2013

Image showing dollar sign with arrow pointing upToday the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase for 2013. This modest increase will help preserve the buying power of Social Security benefits for nearly 62 million Americans, including many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who receive benefits under the Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability systems.

According to SSA, the average monthly retirement benefit will increase by $21, from $1,240 in 2012 to $1,261 in 2013. The average monthly benefit for a “disabled worker” will increase by $19, from $1,113 in 2012 to $1,132 in 2013.

Higher Medicare premiums will likely offset some of this increase. Changes in Medicare premiums will be announced later this year at Medicare.gov.

The cost-of-living increase will affect many parts of the Social Security system, including important thresholds under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, including:

  • Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level – The SGA for SSDI and SSI will increase from $1,010 per month to $1,040 per month for non-blind beneficiaries, and from $1,690 per month to $1,740 per month for blind beneficiaries.
  • Trial Work Period (TWP) – The TWP for SSDI will increase from $720 per month to $750 per month.
  • SSI Federal Payment Standard – The SSI federal payment standard will increase for an individual from $698 per month to $710 per month, and for a couple from $1,048 per month to $1,066 per month.
  • SSI Student Exclusion – The SSI student exclusion monthly limit will increase from $1,700 to $1,730, and the SSI student exclusion annual limit will increase from $6,840 to $6,960.

Annual cost-of-living adjustments are a vital part of ensuring that Social Security beneficiaries do not see their buying power eroded by inflation. SSDI and SSI benefits are modest, averaging only about $1,111 per month for SSDI beneficiaries in the “disabled worker” category and $520 per month for SSI beneficiaries.

The Arc strongly supports ensuring adequate benefit levels. We recently joined 95 other organizations to send a letter to Congressional leaders to oppose a proposal to reduce these much-needed annual cost-of living increases. Subscribe to The Arc’s Capitol Insider for updates to learn how you can help make sure that Social Security and other vital programs are there for people with I/DD.

Celebrating Our Social Security System

“It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, on signing the Social Security Act.

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Social Security Act, a law that makes a world of difference to millions of individuals with disabilities each day. While many see Social Security in dollars and cents we at The Arc know better. We know that Social Security provides a safety net for individuals with I/DD and their families. Today, our Social Security system includes retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. It’s more than just numbers, it’s people’s lives. But if you want to see the numbers that matter, here is a breakdown of what Social Security is doing for individuals with disabilities:

Over 11 million people with disabilities, their spouses, and children receive Social Security benefits. This includes:

  • Nearly 8 million disabled workers (this is the term used in the Social Security Act). To qualify they must have a severe disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
  • Nearly 1.8 million children of disabled workers.
  • Over 930,000 disabled adult children. These individuals have a severe disability that began before age 22. They qualify when a parent becomes disabled, retires, or dies, and receive benefits from different parts of Social Security depending on their parent’s status. Many people with I/DD receive benefits under this category.
  • Nearly 240,000 disabled widow(er)s.

Social Security benefits are modest, averaging about $1,100 to $1,200 per month, but these benefits go a long way in reducing poverty among beneficiaries with disabilities and their families. More than half of disability insurance beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least 75 percent of their income. The vast majority of them receive 90 percent or more of their income from these benefits. For families with a disabled worker, Social Security insurance provides about half of their income.

It’s also important to keep in mind that beneficiaries with disabilities are part of the larger Social Security system. Changes to the Social Security system will affect people with disabilities as much as anyone else.

The Arc strongly supports protecting and expanding the effectiveness of our Social Security system. Please join us in making sure this vital protection is there for people with I/DD and their families! For more information about Social Security, or to apply for benefits, visit http://www.ssa.gov.

April is Fair Housing Month!

Live Free

This April we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act – a powerful law that fights housing discrimination and opens doors for people with disabilities across the U.S.

This year’s theme is “Live Free: Creating Equal Opportunity in Every Community.” Fair Housing Month events are being held all over the nation.

What is The Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), familial status, and disability. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that person, a person associated with the buyer or renter, or a person who plans to live in the residence.  For example:

  • The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space and common spaces (landlords are not required to pay for the changes).
  • The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities the opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. A landlord with a “no pets” policy may be required to grant an exception for a tenant who uses a service animal.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits lenders from imposing different application or qualification criteria on people with disabilities, or inquiring about the nature or severity of a disability (except in limited circumstances). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently charged Bank of America with discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • The Fair Housing Act requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for people with disabilities.

It’s been over 4 decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law.  There’s much to celebrate, but also much work to do.  People with disabilities increasingly want to live in the community in a home that they rent or own. Unfortunately, far too many find that discrimination limits their options: disability-based discrimination is the top reason for Fair Housing Act complaints submitted to HUD.

What can you do?

If you suspect discrimination, you can file a complaint with HUD online or by calling 800-669-9777, or TTY 800-927-9275. You may also file a lawsuit in court.  Contact a local fair housing agency for guidance and help filing a complaint.