The program of social security was initially designed to help those who retired to replace their employment income, which was at the age of 65. However, it is important to note that the program has dramatically changed over time, and with reduction the available benefits to the retired and the aged commencing from the age of 62, it has been evident that millions of people start collecting these benefits of social security incomes even when they are still employed and working. This is true because once an employee is still collecting a paycheck, that means that one is eligible to claim the social security benefits (Herd et al., 2008). However, it should be understood that if one does so before reaching the full retirement age, which is currently between 66 and 67 in the United States, then one may be forced to give back some of or at times the whole retirement benefits that he or she had received if it is above a certain identified limit. Based on this background, it would be prudent when clarified that currently, social security income is a nationwide program initiated by the federal assistance of the United States for the aged, the disabled, the bind and in general, people with low level of income. It would be of importance to state that social security income was introduced within the law in the year 1972 and commenced paying its first benefits by 1974. This paved the way for the replacement of the initial tedious program that was introduced by the social security Act of 1935 and its subsequent amendment in the year 1950. This was a state-run program, and therefore it was faced with several administrative difficulties.
With the establishment of the social security income, there emerged a debate that lasted for four years over a more all-embracing welfare reform proposal that would help to put all the affected people together using appropriate strategies. With the plan in place, there were concerns of introducing the Family Assistance Plan whose intention was to extend the federal social safety to all the low-income earners in America (Berkowitz & DeWitt, 2013). Unfortunately, the Congress rejected this proposal doubting its universality and instead passed the social security income plan. Social security income program was adopted because the Congress saw it as a categorical welfare program that was based on the identical negative tax principles as Family Assistance Plan but was specific and targeted only low-income individuals who were not expected to work, that is, the blind, aged, and disabled. The Congress felt that this was a load it could bear and therefore passed it.
Undeniably, after its inception, social security income began to operate relatively shyly by providing benefits to mostly elderly persons. But since then, the program has grown to become the most considerable trusted and tested federal means of cash assistance program in the United States (Herd et al., 2008). Currently, the caseload of the social security income is dominated by children and working-age adults with disabilities. By 2001, it was estimated that an average of 6.7 million people in which the vast majority were below 65 years, received both the federal and state social security income benefits where the total amount used was well over $32billion. This was a commendable step for such a brilliant program. However despite all these massive steps that have been made, that include the rapid growth of the program, the changing composition of the beneficiaries of the social security program, and the increasing pressure to devolve the responsibilities of federal for such social programs to state government. Also the integration of traditional non-workers into the labor market, several questions have been asked concerning the functions of social security income in the social welfare system of the United States. At the onset of the program in 1972, as stated above, those who were not expected to perform any work included individuals who were 65 years old, the blind and the disabled in general. Over the years, it has been realized that these categories have always been arbitrary and very difficult to determine and asses, most specifically with regards to disability as it remains challenging to establish that a person is disabled (Herd et al., 2008). However, because of changes in the social expectations regarding who should work and who should be entitled to these income transfers have led to new debates over who should be served by the social security income benefits. This idea is contrasted by the fact that individuals are allowed to leave and work for more extended hours and the Americans with Disability Act has permitted the disabled persons a legal right to equal access to work opportunities, thereby signifying that the aged, blind and the disabled may be better placed to work as opposed to the past (Berkowitz & DeWitt, 2013). This, therefore, tends to pile more pressure on the social security income authorities because of lack of a defined rationale to guide them in selecting the beneficiaries. Another concern is the growth in the average age of retirement for the social security benefits, reforms within the welfare have also placed limits on the number of years that single mothers with children may be given the gains in lieu of working, and the rates of poverty among children also remain very high (Smeeding & Sandstrom, 2005).
Given the above circumstances, there is a suggestion put forward that programs that maintain income like social security income will play a critical role in the social safety net of the United States. As a result, these factors will have an impact on the politically determined boundaries of the only remaining federal cash based tested program without any time limit put to both children and adults. The paper, therefore, the necessary basic information that is useful for the social security income policymakers to be able to make informed decisions and choices about its future (Berkowitz & DeWitt, 2013). It is also essential to know the history of the program alongside reviewing its structure and how the rules that regulate social security income program has evolved over the years.
History of social security income
It is essential to identify the fact that the social security income is a nationwide assistance program that is solely assisted by the federal and administered by the social security administration. This is done by advancing and paying cash benefits to individuals within a defined low-income bracket and mostly who have attained the age of 65 or older, or those who are blind as well as the disabled. As stated earlier, it was enacted in the year 1972 and commenced advancing benefits in 1974 where it replaced the program of old-age assistance, aid to the permanently and disabled, and support to the blind which was created by the former social security Act of 1935 and amended in 1950. The establishment of this program brought to an end the reform proposal of Family Assistance Plan proposed by President Nixon in the year 1969. It was the initial attempt to come up with a federal harmful income tax program that was equal to the ones that were proposed by Stigler in 1946. It is worth noting that the Family Assistance Program remained undesirable because of some important reasons that include; firstly, the program was deemed to be quite universal and not categorical, hence provided no clear procedure of who should be captured in the program and who should be left out (Berkowitz & DeWitt, 2013). Another issue was that the program was run through the federal tax system instead of being administered by the state and local governments.
The last reason for its exit was because it had a low benefit reduction rate, in line with the idea that low taxes provides desirable work benefits. Afterwards, the Congress rejected the proposal for the creation of income program that would cater for all Americans with low income and in 1972 came up with the social security income program, which was deemed to be categorical program that mainly targeted a specific group of people in America, that is, the aged, blind and the disabled only. Undeniably, social security income passed after the failure of Family Assistance Program because Congress had a notion that providing income assistance to any needy individual not expected to work was going to have a negligible impact on the level of employment as compared to a universal harmful income tax program.
As had been stated, the social security income is a program that is supporting individuals with low incomes. Because of this, the eligibility criteria for this program is based categorically on age, disability, or blindness as well as other general requirements that are associated with income as well as asset limits, citizenship as well as rules regarding residency (Smeeding & Sandstrom, 2005). The social security administration is the ones responsible for screening and evaluating applicants. It is important to note that for one to be eligible for the social security program, then one must fall below a federally defined income and asset bounds. Alongside meeting the set economic resource criteria like assets owned and income received, for an individual to be eligible to be absorbed in the social security program, then such individuals must also meet residency and citizenship requirements. Specifically, for one to benefit from the program, he or she must be a United States citizen and must be residing in the U.S, a United States national. In the noncitizen category, an individual must be a qualified alien. Currently, the social security income eligibility criteria for noncitizen categories is characterized as covering individuals who were in the United States lawfully as from August 1996, those who are refugees, or people who are caught in refugee-like situations, and also those individuals who have contributed to the country either by providing service in the military or through extended periods of work.
On the certain eligibility criteria, those who are meeting the income, the asset as well as citizenship tests may qualify to benefit from social security income while basing on three categorical criteria of age, blindness, and disability (Herd et al., 2008). An individual is needed to meet only one of the requirements mentioned above, even though some applicants may fit in more than one category. It is worth mentioning that the categorical social security income program requirement for the blind and the aged are quite straightforward. As had been stated earlier, based on the age, individuals are categorically eligible for the social security income if they are of age 65 years and above. Besides, individuals may receive a benefit for the blind in a situation where one has 20/200 vision or less and is using a correcting lens in their better eye, or if an individual has a tunnel vision of at most 20 degrees. It is important to mention that these objective standards make the screening process of blind and the aged social security income applicants easier at the offices of the social security administrators across the entire United States hence saving time and resources too.
Notably, the process of screening for disability is a little bit more compound compared to other categories. This is because it is generally believed that there is no definite definition of disability. Nagi proposed the most currently used model for disability cases. In this model, disability is defined as a dynamic process whereby the pathology of an individual interacts with the socioeconomic environment. The dynamic nature of the disability process is represented by a movement process of three phases that includes; pathology, impairment, as well as disability.
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