October 30 marked the 40th anniversary of the Supplemental Security Income program, which was signed into law in 1972 by President Richard Nixon. There are 8 million elderly, blind, or disabled Americans who receive benefits from SSI, as the program seeks to reduce poverty in these demographics and prevent homelessness. SSI gives these people to opportunity to remain as part of their communities, rather than being residents of institutions.

In a survey performed in 1962, 71 percent of the respondents believed that people with developmental disabilities s out to be cared for in institutions rather than at home. Now, these attitudes have shifted, and with the assistance of SSI, many families are able to care for their children, brothers, sisters, parents and spouses in their own home environments.

In order to qualify for SSI, the applicant must be over 65 or be severely disabled with a limited income and assets, and less than 40 percent of applicants receive benefits. For families who need these benefits in order to provide adequate care for their loved ones, the application process can be challenging. The same goes for individuals who may be homeless due to an inability to find gainful employment because of illness.

The SSI program provides a great service to people in need. If the application process is proving difficult or an appeal is needed, an attorney experienced in the Social Security system can offer options and advice in order to move forward in the process and earn the much-needed benefits.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Happy Birthday, SSI: A Safety Net for Vulnerable Americans,” Donna Meltzer, Oct. 30, 2012