What Has the Social Security Administration Done for You Lately? Maybe More Than You Know

Article excerpt

"I believe our programs should, in every case possible, be used as a leg up, as a steppingstone to a higher plane."

"Our goal is to offer meaningful, available rehabilitation to the disabled population and to help persons with disabilities successfully become valued, contributing members of their communities."

Gwendolyn S. King

Social Security Commissioner

That sort of reassurance from the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) may not fit into the stereotypes many Americans still have about how that federal system might affect the nation's children who happen to be disabled. But if you listen, you'll hear a shift toward a more positive attitude as Commissioner King's words are translated into action.

A FEW SHIFTING IMPRESSIONS:

"I think we'll pass on this Supplemental Security Income (SSI) thing. There's nothing there for my family. It would just be a waste of time to even try."

"All I know personally is that when I

telephoned a year or so ago to find out if

Susan might be eligible, I waited on the

line forever and then got someone who

was rude and unhelpful. I'd already

gone through hassles indirectly when

friends of ours spent months trying to

meet Social Security requirements. They

got turned down flat in the end and

we're in the same boat as they are, struggling

to keep our head above water."

"Sure we need help with all the special

expenses of raising Tom, but those people

aren't going to help us, are they?"

"I've avoided getting Jill into anything

where she'd have to deal with negative

stuff if she gets a little job. ...But you're

telling me there might be positive help

through SSI?"

"We know that eventually we won't be

around. We don't have a lot, but from

what I'd heard before, they wouldn't

give us the time of day. But if things are

changing, maybe we should find out more.

It would really be a blessing if there was

a chance of getting some benefits."

Past apprehension, while understandable, is no longer necessary. Changes have been made and are being planned. And now friendly and practical assistance is available to help your family learn about your potential eligibility for SSI benefits. So why not take a closer look at some of the shifts which may have been taking place while you weren't looking?

WHAT IS SSI ANYWAY?

One of Social Security Administration's (SSA) brochures says it this way:

"SSI is short for Supplemental Security

Income. It pays monthly checks to

people who are aged, disabled, or blind

and don't own much or have a lot of

income. SSI isn't just for adults. Monthly

checks can go to disabled and blind

children, too. People who get SSI usually

get food stamps and Medicaid, too.

Medicaid helps pay doctor and hospital

bills. The basic Federal SSI check for one

person is $407."

While the family's economic status is taken into consideration in calculating eligibility for a child under 18, the calculations can be too complex to include here. For those over 18, parental income isn't included in determining eligibility. These young people's assets and income are evaluated in the same manner as other adults receiving SSI benefits.

LET'S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT HOW SSA IS CHANGING ITS IMAGE:

Have not doubt about it: Commissioner King is out to change any negative impressions of her multimillion-dollar agency If anyone can do it, this dynamic, can-do lady will. And she intends to get her message out every way she can.

If you haven't checked out SSA's new agenda lately, you'd better look again. Eligibility criteria for SSI benefits for the nation's children with various impairments have undergone significant alterations over the past year as the agency comes into compliance with a 1990 United States Supreme Court decision known as the Zebley decision. …