The livestream below will begin at the time of the event.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides critical income assistance for roughly 8 million disabled people and older adults. Yet the program has been left to wither on the vine for over thirty years. At a moment of historic opportunity to strengthen key elements of the nation’s safety net infrastructure, momentum is building for making long-overdue updates to SSI.

Join us on Thursday, May 27, from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM ET as we discuss the human consequences of decades of federal neglect of SSI; policy options to update SSI and boost its beneficiaries’ economic security, including the SSI Restoration Act; why strengthening SSI must be part of the next economic recovery package; and new Data for Progress polling highlighting broad bipartisan support for updating SSI.

Live captions and ASL interpretation will be available.

Please register to obtain the Zoom link.

Distinguished Speakers: 

  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)
  • *Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CA) 

Introductory Remarks:

  • Nancy Altman, president, Social Security Works


  • Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow, The Century Foundation


  • Matthew Cortland, chronically ill, disabled lawyer and senior fellow, Data for Progress
  • Kristen Dama, managing attorney for SSI, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
  • Tracey Gronniger, directing attorney, economic security, Justice in Aging
  • Mia Ives-Rublee, director, Center for American Progress Disability Justice Initiative
  • Kathleen Romig, senior policy analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

This event is presented in partnership with Data for Progress, Justice in Aging, The Arc of the United States, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force, and Social Security Works.

*Speaker is tentative.

Speaker Bios

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). A lifelong Ohioan, Senator Sherrod Brown has spent his career fighting for the Dignity of Work – the idea that hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of work you do. He has held nearly 500 roundtables across Ohio, because he believes the best ideas don’t come out of Washington – they come from conversations with Ohioans. Senator Brown serves as Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Finance Committee, the Agriculture Committee, and is the longest serving Ohioan on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Sherrod was born and raised in Mansfield, Ohio, where he earned his Eagle Scout award and spent summers working on his family’s farm. He is married to author and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz. They live in Cleveland, Ohio, with their rescue dogs, Franklin and Walter, drive Jeeps made by union workers in Toledo, and have three daughters, a son, a daughter-in-law, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 and represents the 16th Congressional District of New York.  Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Bowman was a middle school principal, a teacher, and a public school advocate for twenty years. He has seen firsthand how low-income families are being locked out of opportunity by a system that’s rigged for the wealthy and privileged few. Rep. Bowman was born and raised in New York City and spent his early years in public housing and later in rent-controlled apartments. He didn’t have much growing up but his mother provided him all that he needed: love, a stable family, and a sense of community. Rep. Bowman now lives in Yonkers with his wife and three kids. His approach to being a teacher and principal at a Bronx middle school has been grounded in service, love, and empowering each person to transform our communities. Over the past ten years, he has led community organizing efforts against standardized testing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the corporate-driven privatization and chronic underfunding of our public schools.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-CA) began his career in public service as a community organizer in Tucson. Four decades later, he continues to be an advocate for those in need and a voice for the constituents of his home community. From 1974 to 1986, Raúl served on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, including six years as Chairman. In 1988, he was elected to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, where he served for the next 15 years, chairing the Board for two of those years. Raúl resigned his seat on the Board of Supervisors in 2002 to seek office in Arizona’s newly created Seventh Congressional District. Throughout his career, Raúl has always fought for underrepresented voices. The passions that drove him as a School Board member to fight for and succeed at implementing bilingual education in Arizona are the same passions that motivated him to help pass the first bond package containing a $10 million commitment to reinvest in older, poorer neighborhoods while he was a County Supervisor. Likewise, they are what drive him today as he fights to reform our broken immigration system, ensure livable wages for American workers, and create vital land protections to safeguard our nation’s natural treasures for the next generation. In 2018, Raúl became Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. He also serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and is the Chairman Emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as a long-standing member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Nancy Altman has a forty-five year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. She is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed Ms. Altman to a six-year term, starting October 1, 2017, on the Social Security Advisory Board–a bipartisan, independent federal government agency established in 1994 to advise the President, Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security. Ms. Altman is the author of The Battle for Social Security: From FDR’s Vision to Bush’s Gamble and The Truth About Social Security: The Founders’ Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings. She is also co-author of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All. She has shared her Social Security expertise on numerous television and radio shows, including PBS NewsHour, MSNBC, and FOX News, and published op-eds in dozens of newspapers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. From 1983 to 1989, Ms. Altman was on the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and taught courses on private pensions and Social Security at the Harvard Law School. In 1982, she was Alan Greenspan’s assistant in his position as chairman of the bipartisan commission that developed the 1983 Social Security amendments. Prior to that, she was a tax lawyer with Covington & Burling, where she handled a variety of private pension matters. In the mid-1980’s, she was on the organizing committee and the first board of directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance. Ms. Altman has an A.B. from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Rebecca Vallas is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, where her work focuses on economic justice. Vallas joins TCF after seven years at the Center for American Progress, during which she helped to build and lead CAP’s Poverty to Prosperity Program, in a range of roles, including as the program’s first policy director and managing director, and later as vice president. During her time at CAP, Vallas also helped to establish CAP’s Disability Justice Initiative—the first disability policy project at a U.S. think tank—as well as the organization’s criminal justice reform work. Vallas has authored dozens of policy reports on antipoverty policy, income security, disability policy, access to justice, and criminal records/reentry policy; testified before Congress and state legislatures on numerous occasions; and been cited and quoted in media outlets across the country. She is also the creator and host of Off-Kilter, a nationally distributed podcast about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with. Vallas serves on the board of directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance and is a member of the Academy’s 2020–2021 Economic Security Study Panel. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia and graduated summa cum laude from Emory University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Matthew Cortland is a disabled, chronically ill lawyer, policy advocate, and writer from Massachusetts whose writing has been featured in outlets including New Statesman, Talk Poverty, and Slate. He is currently a lawyer, a public health nerd, the policy director at Be A Hero, and a senior fellow at Data for Progress. He is a former beneficiary of SNAP, Medicaid, and SSI. Having represented claimants before the Social Security Administration and having personally relied on SSI, Matthew is all too familiar with the punishing ruleset that forces disabled Americans to live in poverty. He is also the creator of #DemolishDisabledPoverty, a campaign to challenge inaccurate narratives about disability and reimagine economic security for disabled Americans.

Kristen Dama is the Managing Attorney of SSI and Medical-Legal Partnership at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.  In that role, she oversees CLS’s work connecting individuals with serious disabilities to Social Security income supports.  She also oversees the SSI Unit’s work fighting for local, state, and federal policies that stabilize and improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.  Additionally, Dama manages CLS’s medical-legal partnerships, which provide direct legal services to patients at primary care health centers in two Philadelphia neighborhoods. Ms. Dama joined CLS in 2007 as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow.  In her first decade of practice, she was a member of CLS’s Welfare Unit, where she represented clients seeking public benefits from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and worked on health policy issues and class action litigation affecting low-income Pennsylvanians. Prior to entering law school, Dama worked as a grassroots organizer and lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire (now part of the Reproductive Freedom Initiative of ACLU-NH).

Tracey Gronniger is the Directing Attorney for Justice in Aging’s Economic Security team. She spent nearly ten years as a senior staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, in its Bureau of Consumer Protection. While there, she litigated a variety of cases to halt fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices, including actions to stop fake Medicare schemes, government grant scams, and phony business opportunities. She also coordinated the Bureau’s Legal Services Collaboration and Every Community Initiative, which seek to ensure that the agency meets the consumer protection needs of underserved and at risk consumers, including older Americans. In that role she worked with a wide range of legal services organizations and community advocates to identify and address pressing consumer protection issues, and to respond to their needs for relevant training, information, and resources. Tracey is currently an At-Large Director on the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Board of Directors and a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). Tracey received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and graduated from Harvard University.

Mia Ives-Rublee is the director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. She previously advocated for disability justice and inclusion at nonprofit organizations and businesses across the United States. Best known for founding the Women’s March Disability Caucus, Ives-Rublee helped organize the original Women’s March on Washington in 2017–one of the first large-scale events to have certified deaf interpreters on stage. For her work on the Women’s March, Ives-Rublee was named by Glamour magazine as one of 2017’s Women of the Year. She was also recognized by She the People as one of 20 Women of Color in Politics to Watch in 2020 and awarded the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Social Work. As a North Carolina community regional organizing director and a member of the Disability Policy Group for the Elizabeth Warren Campaign for President, she communicated policies and organized events around specific issues affecting the disability and Asian American communities, and helped to shape the Disability Policy Platform and develop the campaign’s private event accessibility toolkit. Previously, Ives-Rublee worked as a vocational counselor at the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to help disabled people obtain substantial employment and connect with services in their communities, and as the confidential assistant to Commissioner Chai Feldblum at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ives-Rublee also spearheaded the creation of a Disability Inclusion Toolkit for nonprofit organizations, for the Ford Foundation. Ives-Rublee holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in social work from UNC Chapel Hill.

Kathleen Romig is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. She works on Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, paid leave, and other budget issues. Romig previously worked at the Social Security Administration, Social Security Advisory Board, and Congressional Research Service.  She began her career as a Presidential Management Fellow, during which time she completed an assignment at the Office of Management and Budget. Romig has a master’s degree in Social Policy from University College Cork, Ireland, where she was a George J. Mitchell Scholar, and a B.A. from Michigan State University’s James Madison College.