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SSI marks 50th anniversary

SSI program helps ensure economic security for millions

WASHINGTON – This year, the Social Security Administration celebrates 50 years of administering the Supplemental Security Income program. President Richard Nixon signed the bill in 1972, and in January 1974, SSA began issuing the first SSI payments to nearly 4 million eligible people. The goal of the SSI program was to aid aged, blind, and individuals with disabilities with very limited income and resources.

Fifty years later, the SSI program remains a lifeline by providing cash assistance to about 2% of the U.S. population, approximately 7.5 million people, with limited income and resources, including nearly 1 million low-income children with disabilities. SSI benefits can help pay for basic needs like rent, food, clothing, and medicine, reducing the number of people in extreme poverty, and alleviating the burden on other family members.

“SSI works, and has for the last 50 years, because of hardworking and dedicated SSA employees. SSI is an effective yet complex program, and SSA employees work hard to ensure payments are accurate and timely,” said Martin O’Malley, Commissioner of Social Security. “Recently, we made great progress in strengthening the SSI program by simplifying the rules and helping more people access these benefits. As we celebrate 50 years of SSI, we will continue to look for ways to improve the program and eliminate barriers.”

The agency recently announced it will expand access to the SSI program by updating the definition of a public assistance household.The agency also announced it will exclude the value of food from SSI benefit calculations. Additionally, the agency announced it will expand its rental subsidy exception, currently only in place for SSI applicants and recipients residing in seven states, as a nationwide policy.

The agency will commemorate SSI’s 50th anniversary with local and national events throughout the year, including a celebration on June 5 hosted by the National Academy of Social Insurance featuring Commissioner O’Malley and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (Ret-IA).

For more information on the SSI program, including who is eligible and how to apply, visit

To learn more about how the agency is working to remove barriers to accessing SSI payments, simplify the SSI application and improve customer service, visit

Submitted by the Social Security Administration.


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