Last month, advocates and recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) marked the 40th anniversary of the program, which was created and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since that date, SSI has provided crucial financial assistance to millions of people in Pittsburgh and around the country, keeping countless numbers of disabled people and their families out of poverty and homelessness.
Perhaps more importantly, Supplemental Security Income has helped foster a shift in the American mindset and attitude toward disability. Prior to the program's creation, most Americans believed that ill or disabled people should live and be cared for in institutions rather than at home. That is no longer the case.
SSI was created as a federal replacement for the many state-run disability programs that provided aid to the disabled, the elderly and the blind. When he signed SSI into law, President Nixon stated that people who had been receiving benefits under the state programs were "subject to great inequities and considerable red tape inherent in the present system of varying State programs with different benefits, eligibility standards, and rules." SSI allows for a more streamlined program that allows people who need and deserve benefits to receive them more quickly.
In a 1962 survey, more than two-thirds of Americans said that people with developmental disabilities should live in state-run institutions, which were usually expensive and extremely isolating for residents. SSI benefits allow people to care for themselves and their loved ones in a family and community-based setting, significantly improving the quality of life of SSI recipients.
We will continue to discuss the 40th anniversary of SSI in our next post with a look at how the program keeps recipients out of poverty.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Happy Birthday, SSI: A Safety Net for Vulnerable Americans," Donna Meltzer, Oct. 30, 2012
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