Bipartisan legislation recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives aims to modernize a number of outdated rules regarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.

The federal government enacted SSI in 1972 under President Nixon, and yet many of the regulations outlined at that time have seen minimal to no updates since. Although roughly 8 million people across the country receive monthly SSI payments, many of them nevertheless still live in poverty because of the antiquated rules.

As of 2024, the maximum monthly benefit for individuals receiving SSI is $943. For couples, it is $1,415. To be eligible for SSI, one typically must meet the $2,000 asset limit – an asset limit that has not seen an update since the 1980s.

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act outlines an array of revisions to boost support for the millions of low-income seniors and people with disabilities who rely on SSI cash assistance. The proposed changes include the following:

  • Raising the $2,000 resource limit, allowing individuals to have savings of up to $10,000 without jeopardizing their SSI benefits. (Couples would be able to save up to $20,000, rather than just $3,000.)
  • Eliminating the marriage penalty so that married couples would not experience a reduction in their monthly SSI income. In other words, if both spouses receive SSI, they would each would receive the full SSI monthly payment.
  • Increasing the SSI benefit level by more than 30 percent to be at least 100 percent of the current federal poverty level.
  • Doing away with the transfer penalty. Currently, SSI recipients cannot transfer ownership of resources without potentially facing a period of ineligibility.
  • Ending the provision that counts in-kind support and maintenance as income and that often results in a reduction in benefits.

“For more than 50 years, we have fallen short of restoring the program to do what it was intended to do – meet basic needs for blind, disabled, and aged people who will otherwise go without,” U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a sponsor of the bill, said in a news release. “It’s time to update SSI to reflect the 21st century so our most vulnerable receive the economic security and certainty they deserve.”

The SSI Restoration Act has garnered the support of more than 100 organizations, including the World Institute on Disability, the Center for Independent Living, Inc., the People With Disabilities Foundation, and the Special Needs Alliance.