WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chair of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, hosted a news conference call today on his efforts to improve and reform Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to allow Ohioans to work and save for the future without facing government penalties. Brown is the author and lead sponsor of the SSI Restoration Act which will bring the program into the 21st century.

“We shouldn’t be punishing Ohioans who do the right thing and save money for emergencies by taking away the money they rely on to live,” said Brown. “Right now, arbitrary and out-of-date restrictions prevent Ohioans from saving for emergencies and punish people who want to earn a little extra money to provide for themselves and their families.”

SSI provides financial assistance to nearly 8 million seniors and Americans who are blind or disabled. The current program punishes these Americans for working, saving for the future, and being married. Many parts of the SSI program, like who is eligible and what the benefit levels are, haven’t been updated since the 1980s. Updating the SSI program will help improve the lives of older and disabled Ohioans and offer relief to their caretakers.

Brown was joined on the call by Dorothy Gackstetter. Dorothy lives in Ottawa County with her 66-year-old son Scott who is developmentally disabled and receives SSI benefits. Dorothy said her son is being penalized for a life insurance policy Dorothy and her husband bought for Scott decades ago.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that they’re penalizing him for a life insurance policy we haven’t claimed,” said Ms. Gackstetter. “If you’re disabled, SSI funds can’t cure you but the money can take care of medicines and some of the other things you need so it’s critical.”

The SSI Restoration Act would increase SSI benefit levels. Currently, the average monthly benefit is just $585 per month, topping out at $794 per month. At best, that’s 75 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The SSI Restoration Act would increase benefit levels to 100 percent of the FPL.

Among other things, the bill would also update asset limits and income rules to compensate for inflation. Currently, a single person can save $2,000, and a married couple can save $3,000 before they lose benefits. The SSI Restoration Act would raise those limits to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a married couple.