Federal Assistance Program Transfer Payments
Supplemental Security Income
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a public benefit program paid for by the U.S. Treasury that supports individuals of all ages who are unable to work as the result of a disability. Managed by the Social Security Administration, eligibility for this program is based on the income and resources available to the disabled individual or, in the case of disabled children, the income and resources available to their parents. SSI recipients may also be eligible for other government assistance programs, including Social Security benefits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Social Security Administration reports that 70,000 blind individuals received $416 million in SSI benefits in 2008. After adjusting for inflation and excluding the share of expenditures attributable to individuals outside of the target age group, we estimate total SSI payments for blind persons to be $459 million in 2013 (Table 11.1).
Table 11.1. Budgetary Cost of Supplemental Security Income for the Blind
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
We assume that SSI beneficiaries are also eligible for assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In 2008, the average benefit for individuals receiving food stamps was $1,212 annually. Adjusting for inflation, we apply this yearly benefit to the estimated 24,510 blind SSI recipients within the target age group, resulting in an additional $93.7 million in government transfer payments to blind individuals in 2013 (Table 11.2).
Table 11.2. Cost of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the Blind
Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a public benefit program that is administered by the Social Security Administration. This program allows adults who become disabled prior to retirement to collect Social Security benefits early on the basis of their payroll contributions to the Social Security system. Adults who become disabled before age 22 may also be eligible for SSDI payments based on the work record and contributions of their parents. Individuals younger than age 18 are not eligible for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration reports that 122,696 blind individuals were receiving SSDI benefits in December 2009. In 2009, the average benefit for recipients in the diagnostic group “diseases of the nervous system and sense organs” was $1,053.70 per month. Adjusting this value for inflation using the Consumer Price Index suggests that SSDI payments constituted a total government transfer of $1.7 billion in 2013 (Table 11.3).
Table 11.3. Cost of Social Security Disability Insurance for the Blind
Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled
Under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act signed into law in 1971, the federal government is required to purchase certain products and services from nonprofit organizations that primarily employ individuals who are blind or severely disabled. In accordance with this law, the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled ensures that 75% of the labor used to produce materials purchased under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act is completed by individuals who are blind or severely disabled. Materials that fall under the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act include furniture, office supplies, janitorial supplies, and numerous other products and services. In the 2013 fiscal year, approximately $5.4 million was appropriated by Congress for use by the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled. (Table 11.4).