Last week, the White House released a report, Social Security Disability Insurance: A Lifeline for Millions of American Workers and Their Families. The report describes how SSDI insures nearly all American workers and their families, the important role that benefits play in the lives of nearly 11 million current beneficiaries, changes in SSDI over time, and action needed to protect workers and ensure SSDI solvency. As noted in the report: “In 2016, SSDI beneficiaries could face a deep and abrupt 19 percent reduction in their disability insurance benefits if lawmakers fail to act to remedy a long-projected shortfall in the program’s finances.” President Obama has recommended rebalancing existing Social Security payroll taxes to ensure SSDI’s solvency through 2033 (on an even path with the rest of the Social Security system). The Arc strongly supports this common-sense solution, which Congress has taken numerous times in the past. Visit the White House web site to view the full report.
Last week, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in collaboration with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Veterans Administration, published Key Strategies for Connecting People Experiencing Homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits. The report outlines several approaches including: assisting people experiencing homelessness with the SSI/SSDI application process; coordinating with SSA field offices, community organizations, and other federal agencies; coordinating with other benefits and entitlements; working with veterans and other special populations; and assisting SSI/SSDI beneficiaries post-entitlement. Visit the USICH web site to read the full report.
Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, held a hearing on “Protecting the Safety Net from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse”. Witnesses testified in two panels, focusing on proposals related to Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Unemployment Insurance. The first panel consisted of Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX), Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA), Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Representative Tom Reed (R-NY), Representative Jim Renacci (R-OH), and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). The second panel consisted of Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr., Inspector General, Social Security Administration; Dan Bertoni, Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, Government Accountability Office; Curt Eysink, Executive Director, Louisiana Workforce Commission; Debra Rohlman, Vice President of Government Sales, Equifax Workforce Solutions; and Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for Poverty to Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress. Visit the Committee website to review testimony and for more information.
This week, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources, will hold a hearing on “Protecting the Safety Net from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.” The hearing will review multiple bills related to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance (UI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Arc strongly opposes many of the bills that will be discussed at the hearing, including H.R. 918, a bill to cut SSDI for applicants and beneficiaries who also receive UI. The Ways and Means Committee web site is currently undergoing a redesign; our next edition of Capitol Insider will share links to hearing testimony and archived video, if available.
Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and other lifeline programs for people with I/DD are under attack. The House and Senate passed a concurrent budget resolution that calls for significant cuts, setting in motion a process to restructure the Medicaid program. It’s time to act! We are calling on our advocates to engage their members of Congress in support of these critical programs. Please register your concerns by responding to the action alert posted above. To assist you with engaging in other activities, The Arc has created a toolkit with tips and key messages to convey. The Memorial Day recess and the July 4th recess are excellent times to step up our activities by writing, calling or visiting your Member of Congress.
As expected, the House and Senate passed their Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolutions last week. The measures passed with votes nearly along party lines of 228-199 and 52-46, respectively. Both contain drastic cuts to the entitlement and discretionary programs that people with disabilities rely on. They would cut funding by block granting the Medicaid program (called “flexible state allotments”), privatizing the Medicare program, and freezing discretionary funding over the next decade.
Additionally, the House budget resolution includes several harmful provisions on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It reiterates a House rule that creates roadblocks to preventing a 20 percent across-the-board SSDI benefit after 2016, and proposes cutting SSDI for people who also receive Unemployment Insurance after trying to work, but losing their job. The Senate budget resolution does not include these provisions.
Passage of the two resolutions paves the way for the House and Senate to begin negotiating a joint budget resolution. See The Arc’s statement on the passage of the budget resolutions.
See a more detailed summary of what is in the budget resolutions in last week’s edition at:
Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has introduced the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.1391) along with 54 cosponsors. The bill provides for numerous improvements to Social Security benefits, including a modest benefit increase for current and new beneficiaries, starting in 2015; an improved annual cost of living adjustment; a tax break for over 10 million Social Security beneficiaries by raising the threshold for taxation on benefits for individual and joint filers; and a new minimum benefit that will be 25 percent above the poverty line. The bill would also make Social Security fully solvent for 75 years and includes a reallocation of Social Security payroll contributions to prevent a 20% across the board benefit cut in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Last week, the Senate Committee on the Budget held a hearing on “The Coming Crisis: Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency”. Witnesses were: Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration; Dr. Mark Duggan, Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics, Stanford University; Dr. Philip de Jong, Professor of Economics, University of Amsterdam – Amsterdam School of Economics; and Kate Lang, Staff Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center (testifying as a co-chair of the Income Security Committee of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations or LCAO). The Arc joined with other members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to submit a statement for the record of the hearing. Visit the Committee website to review testimony and video of the hearing.
Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX), and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced the “Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act” in both the Senate and House (S. 499, with 4 cosponsors; H.R. 918, with 10 cosponsors). The bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Finance and House Committee on Ways and Means, respectively. As previously reported, the prior week, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced S.343, the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act”. While different in their mechanics, all three bills would reduce or delay Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for individuals who also receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) (such as, after attempting to work but losing their job through no fault of their own and therefore qualifying for UI).
The Arc strongly opposes cuts to SSDI benefits, including cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. As noted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent SSDI and UI benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, and create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries. For these reasons, The Arc strongly opposes S. 499, H.R. 918, S. 343, and similar proposals.
Last week, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced S.343, the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act”; the bill was referred to the Committee on Finance. The bill would zero out Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in any month in which a SSDI beneficiary also receives Unemployment Insurance (UI) (such as, after attempting to work but losing their job through no fault of their own and therefore qualifying for UI). The Arc strongly opposes cuts to SSDI benefits, including cuts to concurrent SSDI and UI benefits. As noted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, SSDI and UI are separate programs established for different purposes; receipt of concurrent SSDI and UI benefits, while rare, is both legal and appropriate. Cutting these benefits would harm the economic security of SSDI beneficiaries and their families, single out SSDI beneficiaries and treat them differently from other workers under the UI program, create disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries, and cut Social Security to pay for an unrelated program. The Arc strongly opposes S. 343 and similar proposals.