Tom Margenau | Social Security and You: A Guide to Understanding Your Benefits ‘SSI is not Social Security,’ repeat after Me.

The next Super Bowl commercial I would run if I had a million dollars would read, “SSI is not Social Security.” It would say this in big bold letters.

I’ve written a lot about this subject in the past. However, I’ll have to do it all over again. In my opinion, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programme is mistaken for the Social Security programme by most Americans.

Let’s start with some context to make things clearer.

Social Security is, of course, well-known. In order to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits in the future, you must have a Social Security number, work for a period of time, and pay Social Security taxes. Alternatively, you may become disabled before you reach retirement age and receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. If you die and your spouse or widower and/or minor children receive Social Security survivor benefits, you will be eligible for Social Security disability compensation.

Nonetheless, only a small percentage of Americans are aware of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Here’s a little background information to get you started.

Hundreds of welfare programmes were available in the United States prior to the early 1970s. Welfare programmes were sometimes administered by the states. Counties used to run their own welfare programmes in the past. Aside from that, local governments in some areas ran their own social services initiatives as well. It was a disaster.

Also Read: Why is my Social Security benefit higher than the Maximum Rate?

Nixon administration officials had a good idea, it seems. They came to the conclusion that this patchwork of welfare programmes needed to be unified under a single federal umbrella. Two bad ideas followed.

The Social Security Administration was given the task of running this new programme.

Tom Margenau | Social Security and You: A Guide to Understanding Your Benefits 'SSI is not Social Security,' repeat after Me.

But on the other hand, I think it was logical. To run a large, national government benefits programme, the SSA needed a nationwide network of field offices and computer infrastructure.

On the other hand, they messed up a nice, clean government operation used to deal primarily with grandfathers and grandmothers and forced it to manage a large, muddled welfare programme.

The name was their second blunder.

The new programme was renamed Supplemental Security Income by someone in the Nixon administration. I can see their point of view. Getting rid of the negative connotations associated with the word “welfare” was a top priority for the campaigners. However, the consequences of this political correctness have been long-lasting.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) became the name of the new programme, which the Social Security Administration was tasked with administering. The idea that Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a supplemental Social Security benefit was widely accepted in the 1970s and is widely accepted today.

Not at all.

There is no connection between SSI and Social Security other than the fact that it is administered by the Social Security Administration. It is a federal welfare programme. The money for SSI benefits comes from general taxation, not from contributions to Social Security.

I wish they had renamed SSI something like the Federal Welfare Program instead of just SSI. If only they had created a new federal agency to oversee it and called it the Federal Welfare Benefits Administration.

Tom Margenau | Social Security and You: A Guide to Understanding Your Benefits 'SSI is not Social Security,' repeat after Me.

Anyway, to give you an idea of how much confusion the misnamed programme has caused, here are some examples taken solely from this week’s emails.

Q: People who receive Social Security Income are receiving welfare, right? I respectfully disagree. Welfare does not include Social Security. In what way is that possible?

A: I’m sorry, but you misread what I wrote. Supplemental Security Income was the subject of the article to which you’re alluding. The Social Security Administration oversees the SSI welfare programme. There’s a misconception about SSI and Social Security, which I mentioned in that column. In addition, I stated that many people including you, obviously believe that SSI stands for Social Security Income in my original post. In fact, it isn’t. As a reminder, the acronym SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income, which is a government-funded welfare programme.

Also Read: Planning’s Social Security Benefits

Q: Is it possible for a person receiving disability benefits to inherit a million dollars and still be eligible for disability benefits, as you stated in an earlier column? An inheritance of less than $1 million recently landed me in a heap of trouble with my disability benefits. There are a lot of hoops I’m jumping through as I try to keep my benefits.

A: I’m sorry, but you misread what I wrote. I was referring to someone receiving Social Security disability benefits in that previous column. In contrast to welfare programmes, Social Security is not one. Even if you’re worth a million dollars, you’ll still be eligible for Social Security benefits, including retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.

Tom Margenau | Social Security and You: A Guide to Understanding Your Benefits 'SSI is not Social Security,' repeat after Me.

As for Social Security disability, you’re not getting it. You’ve been approved for SSI disability benefits. As a final reminder, SSI is a government-funded welfare programme. And, in general, a person who receives a $100,000 inheritance does not require government assistance. My knowledge of the Supplemental Security Income programme is limited, but you may be able to set up a “special needs trust” that allows you to keep your SSI benefits. The “hoops” you’re attempting to clear might be those mentioned above.

Finally, here’s one more example of how users of these two programmes might be misled. SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, is the name given to the Social Security disability programme by the government. SSID stands for the Supplemental Security Income Disability Program.

Finally, say it out loud if you can. SSI is a government welfare programme. It’s not part of the Social Security system at all. SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income, not Social Security Income. The acronym for this programme is SSI.

Tom Margenau has a book that answers all of your Social Security questions. “Simple and Smart” is the name of this new programme. The book is available at, as well as on Amazon and other online book retailers like Barnes & Noble.

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