Poor Americans Missing Out on Special Pension Benefits

The article "Up to 4.6 Million Are Losing Out on Special Benefits" (Part A, April 6) contained some inaccuracies, especially for California readers. Studies do show that a number of people have not applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for various reasons. Some are not aware of the program, some feel a stigma in applying for what your writer describes as a "welfare program." In reality, the program is designed to provide a guaranteed amount of income to disabled, blind or aged individuals with limited resources and limited income.

One of the primary reasons why people have not applied in California is because they often believe they have too much income to be eligible. Here your story may have done a disservice. The maximums quoted there were only federal payment levels and, since California supplements those levels, our payments are much higher.

Individuals living in their own home, can be eligible for SSI payments in California of up to $630 per month and for couples the payments may be as high as $1,167. (In other living situations the payments can even be higher.) All other income received by the person is subtracted from those payment amounts.

Because the studies have shown that not everyone who could be eligible is applying, we have mounted a massive campaign, led by Commissioner Gwendolyn S. King, to increase awareness about the SSI program. All of our offices are participating.

As a final word, the article mentions a "15-page application," which frightens potential applicants. Since the applications are complex, our trained representatives, many of whom are bilingual, complete the questionnaires with them.

DONALD N. MINGS

Regional Commissioner

Social Security Administration

San Francisco

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