Seniors and People with Disabilities who Receive SSI Can Apply for CalFresh in Summer 2019

Due to a policy change included in the 2018-2019 state budget, California seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI can be eligible for CalFresh (SNAP) benefits starting June 1, 2019. Up to now, state policy has barred Californians who receive SSI from receiving CalFresh benefits. This expansion of CalFresh eligibility will be particularly important for seniors age 60 or older, who represent more than half of the over 1.2 million low-income Californians who receive SSI to help meet their basic needs.

Access to federal SNAP nutrition assistance will increase food security for California’s low-income SSI seniors and people with disabilities, leading to fewer people being forced to choose between basics like food and medicine, and giving people more flexibility to direct money toward other needs such as finding and being able to afford housing.

More resources about this change

Improving Access to SSI in California

California has the highest rate of senior poverty in the nation. Older adults are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes, especially in the parts of California with the highest housing costs. Homelessness among California seniors is on the rise.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, administered by the Social Security Administration, can be an economic lifeline for low-income older adults as it provides a very basic income to pay for shelter, food, and other necessities. However, the program is historically under-enrolled.

California is home to over 1.2 million SSI recipients. Seniors receiving SSI, as well as service providers who are helping them, often have a hard time understanding SSI eligibility rules that lead to reductions and terminations. Those currently receiving SSI frequently experience problems when trying to appeal decisions that reduce or terminate their benefits, because they cannot navigate Social Security’s burdensome and complex appeal process.

Justice in Aging is working to increase access to and utilization of SSI benefits among older adults in California, and to build a strong coalition of statewide advocates who are informed about and trained in the details of the SSI program, and interested in working toward systemic improvements. These efforts will both deepen our impact in California and help inform our efforts to fight senior poverty throughout the nation.

Resources for SSI advocates

  • Californians for SSI  – Justice in Aging is a part of the statewide CA4SSI coalition advocating for improved SSI policies at the state and federal level
  • Hart v. Berryhill  – Keep up-to-date on the class action challenging inadequate exams from a Social Security doctor who operated in the Bay Area
  • SSI Basics training  – Learn the basics of SSI in this free webinar, geared to new legal services advocates and other community advocates
  • SSI California Fact Sheet – Learn who SSI helps in California by the numbers and get an overview of improvement efforts.

Contact for SSI advocates

If you have any questions about our SSI work in California, please contact Trinh Phan at tphan@justiceinaging.org.