Social Security – Senate Committee Considers Nomination of Social Security Trustees

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance favorably reported by a vote 14-12 the nominations of The Honorable Charles P. Blahous III and The Honorable Robert D. Reischauer to be Members of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, the Board of Trustees of the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund, and the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund. Consideration of the nominations by the full Senate has not currently been scheduled. Visit the Committee web site for statements by Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and for archived video.

Social Security – Return to Work Act of 2016 Introduced

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rep. French Hill (R-AR) have introduced the Social Security Disability Insurance Return to Work Act of 2016 (S. 3037; H.R. 5409). The bill would time-limit Social Security disability benefits for beneficiaries who the Social Security Administration (SSA) deems to be expected to medically improve or likely to medically improve. Benefits would terminate after 2 years or 5 years, respectively. Individuals would be forced to reapply in order to continue to receive Social Security disability benefits. In the Senate, the bill was referred to the Committee on Finance; in the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Arc strongly opposes S. 3037 and H.R. 5409 as proposals that would lead to the loss of critical income and services for adults with significant disabilities. Additionally, the bills would significantly increase SSA’s workload at a time when 1.1 million Americans are waiting over 535 days for a disability hearing (both historic highs), leading to even more people waiting and facing longer wait times.

Social Security – House to Hold Hearing on Protecting Social Security from Waste, Fraud and Abuse

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Protecting Social Security from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” The witness will be Patrick O’Carroll, retiring Social Security Administration Inspector General. Visit the Committee web site for more information, including testimony and live video the day of the hearing.

Social Security – Social Security Caregiver Credit Act Introduced in Senate

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has introduced the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2016 (S. 2721). Because Social Security benefits are based on earnings, family caregivers currently face cuts in their own Social Security benefits when they have to reduce their hours of paid work, or leave the work force entirely, to provide ongoing support to a child or adult family member with a significant disability. The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act will provide a Social Security earnings record credit to family caregivers in these situations. “The Arc applauds Senator Murphy for introducing this much-needed bill to ensure that Americans who reduce their employment to care for a family member with a disability won’t as a result face severe cuts in their own Social Security benefits. These family members are contributing to their families and their communities in way that should be recognized when it comes to their future financial stability,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer, Public Policy at The Arc. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Social Security – Joint Economic Committee Holds Hearing on Social Security Disability Insurance

Last week, the Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on “Ensuring Success for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program and its Beneficiaries.” Witnesses were Patrick O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General of the Social Security Administration; Mark Duggan, the Trione Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics at Stanford University; and Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress. Visit the Joint Economic Committee web site for testimony and to view archived video of the hearing.

Social Security – Joint Economic Committee to Hold Hearing on Social Security Disability Insurance

On Wednesday, the Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on “Ensuring Success for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program and its Beneficiaries.” Witnesses will include Patrick O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General of the Social Security Administration; Mark Duggan, the Trione Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics at Stanford University; and Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress. Visit the Joint Economic Committee web site for more information.

Social Security – Social Security Administration Announces No Cost-of-Living Increases for 2016

Last week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that there will be no cost-of-living increase for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2016. The Social Security Act provides for annual increases in Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI), Disability Insurance (DI), and SSI benefits based on inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because the CPI-W decreased over the last year, there will be no increase in Social Security or SSI benefits in 2016. However, as noted in a statement by The Arc’s Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy, Marty Ford, many beneficiaries will still face increases in costs such as out-of-pocket medical expenses and housing. SSA also announced that two important thresholds for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities will increase in 2016: the Substantial Gainful Activity level for non-blind individuals will increase from $1,090 per month in 2015 to $1,130 per month in 2016, and the Trial Work Level will increase from $780 per month in 2015 to $810 per month in 2016. The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced Medicare premium changes for 2016. Because there is the “hold harmless” provision in Medicare Part B, premiums for about 70 percent of beneficiaries will not increase for OASI or DI beneficiaries. Medicare Part B beneficiaries who are not held harmless (generally higher income beneficiaries and those newly enrolled) may face premium increases of up to 52 percent.

Social Security – Social Security Administration Announces No Cost-of-Living Increases for 2016

Last week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that there will be no cost-of-living increase for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2016. The Social Security Act provides for annual increases in Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI), Disability Insurance (DI), and SSI benefits based on inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because the CPI-W decreased over the last year, there will be no increase in Social Security or SSI benefits in 2016. However, as noted in a statement by The Arc’s Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy, Marty Ford, many beneficiaries will still face increases in costs such as out-of-pocket medical expenses and housing. SSA also announced that two important thresholds for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities will increase in 2016: the Substantial Gainful Activity level for non-blind individuals will increase from $1,090 per month in 2015 to $1,130 per month in 2016, and the Trial Work Level will increase from $780 per month in 2015 to $810 per month in 2016. The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced Medicare premium changes for 2016. Because there is the “hold harmless” provision in Medicare Part B, premiums for about 70 percent of beneficiaries will not increase for OASI or DI beneficiaries. Medicare Part B beneficiaries who are not held harmless (generally higher income beneficiaries and those newly enrolled) may face premium increases of up to 52 percent.

Social Security – Institute of Medicine Issues Report on “Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children”

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has issued a new report, “Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children.” The Social Security Administration commissioned this report to identify trends in the prevalence of mental disorders among U.S. children and to compare those trends to changes observed in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) childhood disability population. The report “provides evidence-based findings and conclusions concerning trends in the prevalence of mental disorders in children and also the diagnosis and treatment of these children,” including previously unreleased data on the rates of mental disorders and disabilities among low-income children from the SSI and Medicaid programs.

Social Security – New National, State, and Congressional District Data

The Social Security Administration has published state SSDI fact sheets that provide data by state and Congressional district on how many workers with disabilities, their children and spouses receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); the average annual SSDI benefit in relation to the poverty threshold; and the total annual benefits for all SSDI beneficiaries. The agency has also published a national SSDI issue paper, “Social Security Disability Insurance at Age 60: Does It Still Reflect Congress’ Original Intent?” Among other statistics, the paper reports that on average, beneficiaries worked and paid into Social Security for 22 years before qualifying for SSDI. Learn more about SSDI and the action that we need Congress to take to maintain this lifeline on The Arc’s blog and in a new edition of The Arc’s National Policy Matters, “Social Security and SSI for People with I/DD and Their Families.”