On September 6, the House Committee on Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on “Determining Eligibility for Disability Benefits: Challenges Facing the Social Security Administration.” Witnesses were Bea Disman, Acting Chief of Staff, Social Security Administration; Kathryn Larin, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, Government Accountability Office; Elizabeth McLaren, Bureau Chief, Iowa Disability Determination Services on behalf of National Council of Disability Determination Directors; Marilyn Zahm, President, Association of Administrative Law Judges; and Lisa Ekman, Director of Government Affairs, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force. Visit the committee web site to review testimony and archived video of the hearing.
Last week, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) with 5 cosponsors and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) with one cosponsor have introduced the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 3302; S. 1600). The bill would strengthen Social Security’s finances by removing the current cap on annual payroll contributions, set at $127,200 in 2017. It would also provide for more accurate and adequate annual cost of living adjustments for all Social Security Old-Age, Survivors’, and Disability Insurance benefits as well as Supplemental Security Income benefits. In the House, the bill has been referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Education and the Workforce, and Energy and Commerce; in the Senate, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.
Last week, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 36 cosponsors introduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act (H.R. 3307). The bill would update and enhance the SSI program by updating the general earned income disregard to $114 per month, updating the earned income disregard to $377 per month, and updating the resource limits to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a couple. Congress has not adjusted these limits in many years. In addition, the SSI Restoration Act would repeal SSI’s in-kind support and maintenance provisions as well as penalties for resource transfers, marriage, and state tax credits. The Arc and numerous other national organizations strongly support the SSI Restoration Act. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Last week, the Social Security Board of Trustees released “The 2017 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.” The 2017 report finds that, in 2016, Social Security took in roughly $35 billion more than it paid out (in total income and interest). Social Security’s reserves were $2.85 trillion at the end of 2016. The Trustees continue to project that Social Security’s combined Trust Funds can pay all scheduled benefits through 2034, at which point the Trust Funds would be able to pay approximately 77 percent of scheduled benefits. The Trustees also find that Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund can pay full scheduled benefits through 2028, after which the fund will be able to pay about 93 percent of scheduled benefits. This is 5 years longer than projected in the 2016 Trustees Report, due to declines in applications, awards, and the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits. Additional key points about the Trustees Report are available from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force.
The Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the 2017 Trustees Report. The witness was Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration. Visit the Committeeweb site to view testimony and archived video.
Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL) and 17 cosponsors have introduced the Social Security for Future Generations Act (H.R. 2855). The bill would extend Social Security student benefits to age 22, enhance Social Security benefits for widow(er)s, provide annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits that better reflect beneficiaries’ living expenses, apply Social Security payroll tax on wages above $250,000, and increase the Social Security special minimum benefit for long-term low-wage workers. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Education and the Workforce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Energy and Commerce. The Arc supports this legislation.
Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) have introduced legislation to bar payment of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to people with an outstanding arrest warrant for an alleged felony or for an alleged violation of probation or parole (H.R. 2792). This would revive an old, failed policy that had catastrophic effects for many people with disabilities and seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. This bill would not change existing policies and procedures, which already bar payments to people fleeing from law enforcement and direct the Social Security Administration to exchange information about fugitive felons and probation or parole violators with law enforcement. Instead, the bill would primarily affect people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing; most of the warrants in question are decades old and involve minor infractions. Cutting off benefits will not help resolve warrants – but will threaten the means of survival of hundreds of thousands of Social Security and SSI beneficiaries. The Arc strongly opposes this bill. Learn more from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.
The Arc has released a new video on the proposed $72.4 billion cuts to Social Security disability programs, and its contrast to President Trump’s promise to save Social Security without cuts. The video features Will, a child with a disability who relies on Supplemental Security Income to pay for his seizure medication, and Heather, who needed Social Security Disability Insurance when she was unable to work due to her cancer. Please share this videowidely with your networks to show the impact of cutting Medicaid and repealing major health care protections. For an especially easy option,retweet The Arc of the US and share our Facebook post.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has introduced the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2017 (S. 1255). 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 strongly supports this bill. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
With the recent launch of a new, widely-criticized series, “Disabled America,” The Washington Post unfortunately joined the ranks of news media that have reported on Social Security’s disability programs in ways that get the facts wrong and leave the public with false impressions. Visit The Arc’s blog to learn more about the first article in the Post’s new series, and to see a round-up of analyses and responses.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and 10 cosponsors have introduced the “Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act” (S. 959). The bill would repeal a 1996 change in law that allowed earned benefits to be garnished by the federal government to collect federal debts, such as student loans and home loans owed to the Veterans Administration. The bill would prevent garnishment of Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability benefits — as well as other earned benefits — to collect federal debts. View Senator Wyden’s press release to learn more and to access asummary. The Arc strongly supports this much-needed legislation to maintain basic living standards for Social Security beneficiaries struggling to pay student loans and other federal debts.