People Relying on Social Security Shouldn’t be Living in Poverty

Previously, I have written about my own experience relying on federal benefits to survive. As someone who has needed benefits and is lucky enough to no longer need them, I want to discuss how bad benefits are for those needing them the most.

That statement doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful for the help I received; rather, it’s a truth about the challenges I had to overcome. Without the benefits I got, my situation would have been much worse. But my situation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Some people will need benefits for their entire lives. Others don’t have access to the support I did when I was in such need. In the richest country ever–no one needing assistance should be living far below the poverty level.

There are several important facts to remember about this issue:

  • The Federal Poverty Level in 2019 is $12,490 for a single person.
  • That works out to a monthly limit of $1,040.83.
  • The maximum Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) payment in 2019 is $771.00 monthly.
  • The maximum monthly SSI benefit is $269.83 less than what the government says a person needs to escape poverty.
  • The maximum annual benefit for a recipient of SSI is $9,252.00.
  • In 2019, someone on SSI all year will get $3,238.00 less than the government says a person needs to be out of poverty.
  • If you marry, even if your spouse also gets SSI, your benefit is reduced.
  • With certain exceptions, you can’t have assets of $2,000.00 and qualify for SSI.
  • In order to qualify for SSI, you have to be at least 65 years old and/or disabled.

The idea that a person who is elderly and/or disabled and in need of government assistance is forced to live far below the poverty level should be embarrassing to the richest country in the world. Sadly, Republicans want to reduce benefits and make qualifying for them harder.

As someone who was both glad to get the help I got and embarrassed to have needed it, I assure you–the sub poverty level existence the federal government provides isn’t an incentive to stay in the system. If society is going to be at best reluctant to hire older people and people with disabilities–society shouldn’t force them to live lives far below the artificially low poverty line.

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