April 17, 2013
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing on behalf of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises Congress and the Administration regarding laws, policies, practices, and procedures that impact people with disabilities.
Last week, you released your FY14 budget proposal outlining your vision for federal spending in the next fiscal year as well as your most recent offer to Speaker Boehner to achieve additional deficit reduction in a balanced fashion. NCD appreciates the need for deficit reduction efforts and looks forward to providing assistance to help ensure that such efforts do not further harm low-income populations and people with disabilities, who have already borne the brunt of past reductions in federal spending. It is because of this commitment that I communicate the importance of including in any further deficit reduction conversation, measures to advance the economic well-being of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries. SSI beneficiaries face the most severe levels of poverty of any group of Social Security beneficiaries. In addition, due to the asset limits as part of the program, SSI beneficiaries are prohibited from saving more than $2,000 in total, thus denying them the opportunity to take steps to move out of poverty and prepare to enter the workforce.
While we were pleased to see that SSI beneficiaries were exempted from the proposed "Chained CPI" index, we believe additional measures are needed to protect this population, particularly as cuts to federal spending in current law pose grave threats to low-income Americans with disabilities. We urge you to incorporate common-sense program reforms to SSI designed to improve beneficiary well-being and enhance the ability of SSI beneficiaries to participate in the workforce. We encourage consideration of the policy issues below for inclusion in any future deficit reduction effort:
- Raise the SSI asset limit, currently set at $2,000 since 1989, to $10,000 and index it to inflation going forward;
- Raise the income offsets for SSI beneficiaries and index them to inflation going forward;
- Eliminate asset limits for participants in work incentive programs, such as 1619b and the Medicaid Buy-In, who are accessing SSI primarily for the purposes of receiving Medicaid benefits rather than utilizing the program for income support;
- Establish a National Medicaid Buy-In program to allow for greater workforce mobility for working people with disabilities who may wish to change jobs across state lines;
NCD previously communicated with you on this issue in our letter of December 20th, 2012/publications/2012/Dec202012_2/, and wrote more extensively on the topic of asset limitations in SSI in our 2005 report, The Social Security Administration's Efforts to Promote Employment for People with Disabilities: New Solutions for Old Problems: /publications/2005/11302005
We believe that action on this issue is long overdue and strongly urge you to ensure the inclusion of these common-sense program reforms to SSI within any further deficit reduction arrangement. People with disabilities are disproportionately harmed by the sequester and other cuts to federal spending. Within that context, it is vital that current law be altered to allow SSI beneficiaries to save in order to blunt the impact of current and future cuts.