Is Supplemental Security Income the New Welfare?

In the 1990s, welfare reform led to major cuts to the funds that are provided to the nation’s poorest families. After the Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) program, which provides financial assistance to disabled children, grew significantly over the past several years, many people are questioning whether the SSI program simply replaced welfare as a lifeline for struggling families.

Traditionally, it has been welfare that has provided a safety net for poor children in Michigan and the rest of the United States. But the Boston Globe reports that in 2012, the SSI program paid out about $700 million more than welfare and the gap only grew in 2013. 

Currently, about 1.3 million children receive benefits from the SSI program, which is far less than the total number of children who receive welfare assistance, but the payments from SSI are much higher than from welfare. Some critics say that is what is causing the SSI program to grow, and they want to make sure that the program is being used as it was intended — a safety net for the truly disabled.

However, there are many fierce advocates for the SSI program who say that the benefits are crucial for poor families who are raising children with disabilities, and children must demonstrate “marked and severe” limitations before qualifying. Additionally, advocates say the number of SSI beneficiaries is growing as advancements in the medical field have allowed greater detection of disabilities in children.

Undoubtedly, this is only the beginning of the conversation comparing welfare to SSI. However, what critics need to remember is that it is not easy to qualify for SSI. In fact, many families depend on the assistance of an experienced Social Society disability lawyer to prove that they are truly deserving of the assistance.

For more information on qualifying for SSI, please visit our SSI for Children in Michigan page.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Aid to disabled children now outstrips welfare As SSI expands, debate intensifies,” Patricia Wen, Aug. 28, 2014