SSI provides income floor for needyI am writing in...


March 24, 1996

SSI provides income floor for needy

I am writing in response to the March 18 article, ''More disability case reviews sought.''

For advocates such as myself, who experienced the aggressively hostile campaign to terminate low-income disabled persons in the 1980s, a major objective in any initiative to increase the number of reviews is to prevent those governmental abuses from recurring.

We readily acknowledge that the review process is a necessary feature of any disability program and that the integrity of the program is affected by the Social Security Administration's failure to perform reviews.

However, new initiatives must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that they are reasonable and protect individuals from arbitrary and capricious agency policies and practices.

In describing the new initiative, the article states that the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is ''for people who can't qualify for DI because they have little or no work history.'' This is incorrect and unfortunately continues The Sun's history of providing inaccurate information about the SSI program.

The SSI program is not just for individuals who do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. It is the only national program that establishes an income floor for needy aged, blind and

disabled persons.

For those individuals who receive Social Security because of low earnings, SSI supplements their income to at least bring them up to the SSI payment level, which is currently $470 per month in Maryland.

According to Social Security's statistics, nearly 64 percent of SSI recipients age 65 years or more also receive Social Security retirement benefits and more than 30 percent of disabled SSI recipients also receive Social Security disability benefits.

Overall, nearly 40 percent of all SSI recipients receive some type of Social Security benefit.

The importance of SSI for vulnerable populations is even more pronounced when the Social Security program is more closely scrutinized.

Women, in particular, benefit from eligibility for SSI to supplement their Social Security benefits. The fact is that women generally have lower Social Security benefit amounts than men: 76 percent of that for retired men and 70 percent of that for disabled men.

Further, it is more likely that women will rely on SSI at an earlier age. Starting at age 50, more women than men receive SSI based on disability.

Low-income women are more likely to suffer from poorer health, including chronic conditions that limited their ability to work.

The Sun's biased and inaccurate reporting on the SSI program over the last 14 months has never included those facts that indicate SSI has saved millions of the most vulnerable persons in this country from dire destitution and that SSI has provided a means for elderly and disabled individuals to live outside of institutions and be independent.

Ethel Zelenske


Campaign money could have helped poor

Almost a quarter of America's children are born into and reared in poverty.

If Ross Perot and Steve Forbes had used the money they squandered in their failed campaigns to alleviate the suffering of these children, they would have gone down in history as great men.

Instead they chose self-aggrandizement and will only be remembered as mediocre, rich buffoons who tried to sell us snake-oil solutions to our economic problems if they are remembered at all.

Gerald Ben Shargel


Maryland should cut state taxes

Why is the suggestion that taxes be cut in order to breathe some life into Maryland's flagging economy viewed with such reflexive disdain by The Sun (March 13, "Too weak for a tax cut")?

That tax cuts have a stimulative effect is unquestioned among economists. At the federal level, they have been tools of economic revival for Democrats such as President Kennedy and Republicans such as President Reagan. But for Barry Rascovar (March 17, "Unfriendly to business? Look in the mirror, Mr. Legislator"), the idea of income tax cuts here in Maryland was ''from the beginning preposterous."

Clearly, one source of Mr. Rascovar's antipathy to tax cuts is his ignorance of competitive dynamics, revealed in his theories on the proper way to run a business: If you're running a deficit, ''downsize'' and trim expenses ''then you might take a hard look at a price cut.''

Such advice is an excellent way to assure that your problems will multiply. If you've overpriced your product, your first action must be to meet or beat your competitors' prices. Ignore that fact and you will soon find yourself downsizing all the way to bankruptcy court.

Unfortunately, the evidence that Maryland has overpriced itself as a place to live and grow a business is overwhelming, despite Mr. Rascovar's refusal to believe the data on this issue. Perhaps, then, he should do a little field research.

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