At our law firm, we often represent clients who are elderly or disabled, or who care for loved ones with disabilities or who are seniors. There is an ongoing national debate about whether income and asset limits for some of the primary public benefit programs that support this group of vulnerable people — mainly Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid — should be raised.
A major service that our lawyers provide is to analyze the financial situation of a disabled or elderly loved one and provide advice about how best to plan for the future, including to preserve eligibility for public benefits. This planning often includes a special needs trust, a vehicle that may meet some of the person’s needs without jeopardizing eligibility for important benefits programs.
Currently, SSI and Medicaid (known as Health First Colorado in our state) beneficiaries must in essence impoverish themselves to become and stay eligible. For example, resource limits for SSI eligibility are at the time of this writing $2,000 for an individual or child and $3,000 for a married couple.
Proposed legislation would modernize SSI eligibility levels
SSI eligibility limits have not been raised for many years. On Sept. 11, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, introduced H.R. 4280, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2019, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
If the legislation became law, it would raise the resource limits to $10,000 for an individual claimant and to $20,000 for a married couple — a nod to inflation that has not been accounted for in decades.
The bill would also increase the amount of monthly income that would not be counted against the recipient as well as requiring a cost-of-living increase for inflation applicable to resource and income limits annually after 2020.