Lawmakers Propose Emergency Payments for Social Security Beneficiaries

How can I qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

Led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), congressional lawmakers are proposing a one-time emergency payment in the amount of $581 for over 65 million individuals who currently receive retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The payments are designed to assist these recipients who were denied a cost of living adjustment in 2016. Those receiving retirement benefits who are slated to receive $5 per month in the coming year increasing the average monthly payment from $1,355 to $1,3660. Recipients of SSI were set to receive a mere $2 monthly increase in the maximum federal benefit to $735. The scheduled cost of living adjustments are tied to the Consumer Price Index, but these minor increases are considered to be “woefully inadequate” and do not help vulnerable seniors keep pace with the risings costs of daily life.

SSI at a Glance

The Social Security Administration pays Supplemental Security Income benefits to individuals with limited income and financial resources who are age 65 or older, disabled or blind. Children who are blind or disabled may also be eligible for these benefits. Unlike retirement benefits, SSI is not based on one’s prior work history, although it is means tested.

In addition, SSI beneficiaries may also be able to obtain medical assistance through the Medicaid program to cover the cost of hospital stays, doctor bills, prescription drugs and other healthcare costs. Further, many states also offer separate supplemental benefits to SSI recipients, some of whom may also be eligible for food assistance.

The SAVE Benefits Act

While Senate Democrats initially floated the plan last year, the Seniors and Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act failed to pass. The measure was first introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who tied the 3.9 percent increase to that of raises that many business executives reportedly received.

This would not be the first time Capitol Hill lawmakers approved such a measure as Social Security recipients received a one-time $250 payment back in 2009 – when Democrats had control of both houses of Congress. The proposed additional $581 would be the equivalent of three-months groceries for most seniors and would also help to cover out of pocket expenses for prescription drugs, according to Sen. Schumer.

Whether  Democratic leaders in the Senate are successful in making this proposal part of the post-election agenda remains to be seen. Nonetheless, qualifying for Supplemental Security Income and navigating the Social Security Administration system can be complicated. By engaging the services of an experienced Social Security benefits attorney, you can obtain the benefits you deserve.