How Asset Limits Keep Disabled People in Poverty

CW: Poverty

I am one of the millions of Americans who are living in poverty. I am also one of the approximately eight million SSI beneficiaries in this country.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio introduced the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act last May. The initiative aimed to modernize asset limits, allowing beneficiaries to save more money in an emergency without losing their benefits. These limits have not been updated since 1989. Unfortunately, it did not pass.

The limit’s value depreciates annually as a result of inflation because it is not adjusted. It hasn’t been revised in decades. It is currently worth one-sixth of what it was in 1972.

According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if resource asset limits had been adjusted for inflation since 1972, when the law first went into effect, they would be $9,929 for an individual and $14,893 for a couple in 2023 — more than six times what they are now.

In April, I received a letter from The Social Security Administration. This letter informed me that they were discontinuing my SSI. The reason? I had $2,034 in my checking account because I hadn’t paid my rent yet. $34 was enough for the Social Security Administration to send me a letter asking why I had too many assets.

SSI needs to be increased significantly to keep up with the cost of living. In addition to expenses such as groceries and utilities, those with disabilities often have other expenses.

For people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, it can be even more expensive to live. According to the National Disability Institute, researchers estimate that households containing an adult with a disability require, on average, 28 percent more income (or an additional $17,690 a year for a family at the median income level) to obtain the same standard of living as a comparable household without a member with a disability.

Wheelchairs, walkers wheelchair-accessible vans, prescriptions, bath and shower chairs, enteral formula, specialized beds, and hearing aids are just some of the things that are necessary for disabled people

Disability benefits are not a livable income for anyone. It’s no surprise that, according to a 2015 NPR article, persons with disabilities are twice as likely as their nondisabled counterparts to live in poverty.

Keeping disabled people in poverty is antiquated. Asset limits need to be abolished. Nobody should be forced to live in poverty.


Konish, Lorie. “Bipartisan Bill Aims to Update Rules for Federal Benefits for Elderly, Disabled.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 May 2022,

“Number of Recipients, 1974–2020.” Social Security Administration, Social Security Administration, 1 Dec. 2020,

Parrott, Sharon. “Important Investments, Significant Disappointments in Year-End Legislation.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 20 Dec. 2022,

Romig , Kathleen, et al. “The Case for Updating SSI Asset Limits.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 26 June 2023,

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