In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Supplemental Security Income

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Laws, Regulations, and Policies
  • Historical Background
  • Current Perspectives

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

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Social Work Supplemental Security Income
TJ Sutcliffe
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0245


Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides basic monthly cash assistance to seniors, the blind, and people with disabilities who have extremely low incomes and assets. On average, roughly 42 percent of SSI recipients live in families with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level, and another 22 percent live in families with incomes between 100 and 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Enacted under the Social Security Amendments Act of 1972, SSI replaced federal-state aid programs in the fifty states and the District of Columbia with a national program of income support. This entry focuses on the background and basic structure of the SSI program, its relevance to specific populations, interactions with other social welfare programs, and key topics. It also includes an examination of the current status of and perspectives on the SSI program.

General Overviews

Discussion of the purposes, functions, and trends of the SSI program can be found in a range of sources, including works by nonprofit think tanks, government agencies, researchers, and the US Congress. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2015 provides a succinct overview of SSI including basic data on beneficiaries and benefits. Congressional Budget Office 2012 offers more detail on the three main programs under SSI—childhood, adult, and elderly—and offers policy options for enhancing adequacy as well as for reducing eligibility and/or benefits. Fremstad and Vallas 2012 provides an excellent overview of the SSI childhood disability program with a focus on trends since 2000. National Academy of Social Insurance 2013 offers archived video of a policy seminar featuring national SSI experts on the release of a new book on the history of SSI, Berkowitz and DeWitt 2013 (cited under Historical Background). US House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means 2014 provides an authoritative, brief program description with links to additional resources.

  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 2015. Policy Basics: Introduction to Supplemental Security Income.

    This brief describes SSI recipients, their sources of income, the evolution of the program over time, and its effectiveness. Available online.

  • Congressional Budget Office. 2012. Supplemental Security Income: An overview.

    CBO provides an overview of the SSI program and policy options. Available online.

  • Fremstad, Shawn, and Rebecca Vallas. 2012. Supplemental Security Income for Children with Disabilities. Social Security Brief No. 40. Washington, DC: National Academy of Social Insurance.

    This brief provides an overview of the SSI childhood disability program including discussion of the purpose of SSI, its importance to children with disabilities and their families, and trends. Available online.

  • National Academy of Social Insurance. 2013. The History and Promise of SSI.

    Archived video from a policy seminar with national experts on the history, current status, and future of SSI.

  • US House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means. “Supplemental Security Income.” In The Green Book. Washington, DC: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, 2014.

    The committee provides an overview, program data, and links to the full text of relevant Congressional Research Service reports. Available online.

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