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Lower Benefits to Old, Disabled, Blind Attacked

October 16, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — A new Reagan Administration policy that will mean lower welfare benefits for many elderly, blind and disabled people who get free food, shelter, firewood or winter clothing from churches and other charitable organizations drew outrage today from advocates for the poor and homeless.

Under the new policy, non-cash help must be counted as income, the New York Times reported today.

"For every bag of groceries we give these poor people, the government will reduce their benefit checks," said Sharon M. Daly of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the social action arm of the Roman Catholic Church.

"The more we help these people through local parish programs, the poorer they will be," she said.

The newspaper said the new policy was declared in a confidential "emergency instruction" to Social Security field offices last month from Rhoda M. G. Davis, the associate commissioner of Social Security.

No Public Announcement

There has been no public announcement of the policy, which took effect Oct. 1.

From May 1, 1983, through Sept. 30 of this year, the value of food, shelter, clothing and some home energy assistance was disregarded by the government when it determined eligibility for supplemental security income.

However, the statutory authority for the exclusions expired at the end of September, Davis said. Legislation that would extend the exclusions became snarled with other issues.

The new policy applies to people seeking or receiving benefits under the supplemental security income program. The program issues checks each month to 4.3 million elderly, blind and disabled people who have little or no other income. Officials said about 60% are severely physically or mentally disabled.

The program is run by the Social Security Administration and is expected to cost $12.3 billion this year.

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