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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits

Health Factors: Income
Decision Makers: State Government Federal Government
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 1-9% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

The federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly payments to people who are blind, disabled, or age 65 or older with limited income and resources who meet eligibility criteria; blind or disabled children may also qualify. Federal benefits can be supplemented with state contributions; benefits vary by state and by recipient. Federal benefit maximums change yearly. In 2018 federal monthly maximums were $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple (SSA-SSI), with average benefits of $662 for children, $577 for adults, and $447 for elderly beneficiaries (SSA-Snapshot 2018). SSI incentivizes work by disregarding $1 out of every $2 earned over $65 for benefit calculation. Personal assets help determine eligibility; individuals cannot have countable resources above $2,000, and couples are limited to $3,000. Child recipients are assessed at age 18 to determine eligibility under adult standards (SSA-SSI). In most states, individuals eligible for SSI are eligible for Medicaid, and in 32 states and Washington DC Medicaid is automatically conferred (SSA-Medicaid).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased income
Reduced poverty
Improved well-being
Increased access to care

Evidence of Effectiveness

Increasing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit levels is a suggested strategy to reduce poverty among senior citizens aged 65 and older, and adults and children who are blind or have severe disabilities (CBPP-SSI 2014). Available analysis indicates SSI brings some recipients and their families above the poverty line (SSA-Stegman Bailey 2015). Benefits raise half of child beneficiaries out of poverty, and bring some of the poorest recipients above 50% of the poverty line (CBPP-Romig 2017). However, at current benefit levels, SSI may not alleviate material hardship (Ghosh 2015) or food insecurity for families with children with disabilities (Rose-Jacobs 2016).

Loss of SSI benefits has been shown to increase the likelihood of unmet medical needs (Hemmeter 2011) and hardships such as hunger and homelessness (Norris 2003a). A study of child SSI recipients who underwent redetermination in 1998-2006 as they aged out of the program suggests that recipients who lose benefits at age 18 have higher rates of employment at age 24 than those who continue to receive SSI; on average, employment rates are close to those of peers with disabilities but substantially lower than those without disabilities (Hemmeter 2017). However, health outcomes and ability to live independently have not been assessed (Mathematica-Levere 2017). While some youth secure full-time, full-year employment, overall earnings among former recipients average $4,400 annually and income volatility is substantial (Deshpande 2016). 

Higher SSI benefit rates may decrease disability among the elderly (Herd 2008). Experts suggest many children with mental disorders who may meet eligibility criteria for SSI are not receiving benefits (Kelleher 2016). Additional evidence is needed to confirm optimal program targeting and benefit amounts for children and adults.

Implementation

United States

As of December 2017, over 8 million individuals received Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI provides support for 1.1 million US children (SSA-SSI 2018), about half of them eligible because of disability due to a mental disorder (Kelleher 2016). State policies regarding enrollment of children with mental disabilities (Hoagwood 2017), and practices regarding cessation and continuation for children older than 18 vary widely (Hemmeter 2017).

Approximately 4 in 9 SSI recipients receive a state supplement to their federal benefits. Four states do not offer SSI supplements for adults: Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Eighteen states do not provide a state supplement for children. The federal Social Security Administration implements SSI supplements for eleven states and Washington DC; other states implement their own programs (SSA-SSI).

Wisconsin

As of December 2017, nearly 120,000 Wisconsin citizens received SSI (SSA-SSI 2018). Wisconsin provides an SSI supplement for those who qualify for the federal program; amounts depend on living arrangements but are generally $83.79 for an individual and $132.05 for a couple. Recipients also automatically qualify for Medicaid without a separate application (WI DHS-SSI). 

Implementation Resources

SSA-SSI - Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI. Accessed on August 6, 2018

Citations - Description

SSA-Medicaid - Social Security Administration (SSA). Medicaid Information. Accessed on August 8, 2018
SSA-Snapshot 2018 - Social Security Administration (SSA). Monthly statistical snapshot, June 2018. Accessed on August 8, 2018
SSA-SSI - Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI. Accessed on August 6, 2018

Citations - Evidence

CBPP-Romig 2017 - Romig K. SSI: A lifeline for children with disabilities. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2017. Accessed on July 17, 2018
CBPP-SSI 2014 - Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Introduction to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2014. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Deshpande 2016 - Deshpande M. Does welfare inhibit success? The long-term effects of removing low-income youth from the disability rolls. American Economic Review. 2016;106(11):3300-3330. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Ghosh 2015 - Ghosh S, Parish SL. Deprivation among US children with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income. Journal of Disability Policy Studies. 2015;26(3):173-183. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Hemmeter 2011* - Hemmeter J. Health-related unmet needs of Supplemental Security Income youth after the age-18 redetermination. Health Services Research. 2011;46(4):1224-42. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Hemmeter 2017* - Hemmeter J, Mann DR, Wittenburg DC. Supplemental Security Income and the transition to adulthood in the United States: State variations in outcomes following the age-18 redetermination. Social Service Review. 2017;91(1):106-133. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Herd 2008 - Herd P, Schoeni RF, House JS. Upstream solutions: Does the Supplemental Security Income program reduce disability in the elderly? The Milbank Quarterly. 2008;86(1):5-45. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Kelleher 2016* - Kelleher KJ, Stein REK, Hoagwood KE. Supplemental Security Income for children with mental disabilities. Pediatrics. 2016;137(3):e20153342. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Mathematica-Levere 2017 - Levere M. The labor market consequences of receiving disability benefits during childhood. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2017. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Norris 2003a* - Norris J, Scott R, Speiglman R, Green R. Homelessness, hunger and material hardship among those who lost SSI. Contemporary Drug Problems. 2003;30:241-73. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Rose-Jacobs 2016* - Rose-Jacobs R, Fiore JG, Ettinger de Cuba S, et al. Children with special health care needs, Supplemental Security Income, and food insecurity. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2016;37(2):140-147. Accessed on July 17, 2018
SSA-Stegman Bailey 2015 - Stegman Bailey M, Hemmeter J. Characteristics of noninstitutionalized DI and SSI program participants, 2013 Update. Washington, DC: Social Security Administration (SSA); 2015. Accessed on July 17, 2018

Citations - Implementation

Hemmeter 2017* - Hemmeter J, Mann DR, Wittenburg DC. Supplemental Security Income and the transition to adulthood in the United States: State variations in outcomes following the age-18 redetermination. Social Service Review. 2017;91(1):106-133. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Hoagwood 2017* - Hoagwood KE, Zima BT, Buka SL, Houtrow A, Kelleher KJ. State-to-state variation in SSI enrollment for children with mental disabilities: An administrative and ethical challenge. Psychiatric Services. 2017;68(2):195-198. Accessed on July 17, 2018
Kelleher 2016* - Kelleher KJ, Stein REK, Hoagwood KE. Supplemental Security Income for children with mental disabilities. Pediatrics. 2016;137(3):e20153342. Accessed on July 17, 2018
SSA-SSI - Social Security Administration (SSA). Understanding Supplemental Security Income SSI. Accessed on August 6, 2018
SSA-SSI 2018 - Social Security Administration (SSA). SSI recipients by state and county, 2017. SSA Publication No. 13-11976. Washington, DC, June 2018. Accessed on July 17, 2018
WI DHS-SSI - Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Supplemental Security Income in Wisconsin. Accessed on July 17, 2018

Page Last Updated

August 7, 2018

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