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This Bipartisan Bill Could Change Lives of Disabled Americans

Big changes to an existing law will pull millions of disabled Americans out of poverty

On September 12, the Savings Penalty Elimination Act was introduced by members of both parties in the United States Congress. The bill seeks to reform the existing Supplemental Security Income program, which offers financial support to disabled Americans. The main issue with the current SSI program is that it makes qualifying for the program possible only for individuals with limited savings, which are vetted with asset tests to make sure nobody with too much money saved up can benefit from the program. The new bill would raise the savings cap for individuals to qualify for SSI.

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The current maximum savings amounts that disabled individuals or couples can have and still qualify for SSI are $2,000 and $3,000, respectively. The Savings Penalty Elimination Act will raise that number to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples, meaning that program beneficiaries can keep more than $2,000 in their bank accounts and still qualify. The change reflects the 30 years of economic change and inflation since the SSI program was last amended.

This significant improvement to the program will make it possible for recipients of SSI to get the financial assistance they need from the government without being forced to stay in poverty. It also means that a disabled person with more than $1,000 in their bank account can get married without risking losing their SSI benefits, removing a discriminatory obstacle advocates have long said stood in the way of marriage equality for Americans with disabilities.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Democratic Representative Brian Higgins (NY), Republican Senator Bill Cassidy (LA), and Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA). The bill has also received massive support from nearly 400 disability rights organizations, who penned a letter of thanks to the members of Congress behind the change.

(featured image: StockPlanets/Getty Images)

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Scout (she/her/hers) is a freelance news writer for The Mary Sue. When not scrolling Twitter, she's thinking about scrolling Twitter. She likes short walks on the beach, glitter pens, and burnt coffee. She does not read the comments.