A historical look at Supplemental Security Benefits (SSI)

Dec 10

As of 2013, approximately 8.2 million individuals received SSI benefits.


The SSI program is a nationwide Federal assistance financial means tested program administered by SSA (Social Security Administration) that guarantees a minimum level of income for aged, blind, or disabled.


Prior to 1972 each state had its own version of a means tested program.  Because each state’s means tested program varied widely from state to state, there was much discrepancy from state to state regarding program eligibility and type of benefit that was awarded to an individual.


In 1972, the Social Security Act of 1935 was amended creating the SSI program.  When President Richard Nixon signed the SSI program into law on October 30, 1972,  President Nixon effectively replaced the discrepancies in the means tested programs that existed from state to state.


Upon SSI’s implementation in January 1974, the most vulnerable individuals found themselves for the first time on equal footing—eligible for the same means tested benefit based upon the same qualifications, regardless of the State in which they lived.


More than four decades after the SSI program was enacted, the SSI program continues to provide a safety net for the neediest of aged, blind, and disabled Americans. These individuals frequently have nowhere else to turn, and rely on the cash assistance provided by SSI for their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.