Social Security – Social Security Administration Announces Cost of Living Increases for 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a two percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2018. The Social Security Act provides for annual COLA increases based on inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Because the CPI-W rose modestly over the last year, the 2017 COLA will increase benefits modestly. According to SSA, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker will increase by $27, from $1,377 in 2017 to $1,404 in 2018. The average monthly benefit for a Social Security “disabled worker” beneficiary will increase by $24, from $1,173 in 2017 to $1,197 in 2018. In addition, the SSI Federal Payment Standard will increase from $735 per month in 2017 to $750 per month in 2018. Important work incentive thresholds for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries with disabilities will also increase, including the Substantial Gainful Activity level and the Trial Work Period earnings level. View SSA’s fact sheet for more details on the 2018 Social Security COLA.

Social Security – House Passes Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 244 to 171 to revive a failed former policy that cuts off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for certain people with disabilities and seniors. As amended and approved by the House, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy targeting SSI recipients with old, outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation. Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals. Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability. To learn more, read The Arc’s press statement condemning the House vote to advance this harmful legislation.

Social Security – House Vote Likely on Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

On Monday, the House of Representatives Rules Committee will lay the groundwork for a House floor vote on legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for certain people with disabilities and seniors. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill at some point this week; a date has not yet been set. As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy targeting SSI recipients with old, outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation. Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals. Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability. To learn more, read The Arc’s press statement condemning recent Committee action to advance this harmful legislation.

Social Security – House Committee Advances Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

Last week, by a vote of 23 to 14, the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means advanced legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for certain people with disabilities and seniors. As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy targeting SSI recipients with old, outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation. Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals. Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability. View markup materials from the Committee and learn more in The Arc’s press statement condemning the Committee vote.

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Releases New Guidance on SSI/SSDI Benefits for People Experiencing Homelessness

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.

Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act Introduced in Senate

Last week, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 2089; “SSI Restoration Act”). Last year, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced similar legislation in the House (H.R. 1601; SSI Restoration Act of 2013).  S. 2089 proposes to update and index to inflation the SSI earned income and general income disregards, update and index to inflation the SSI asset limits (from the current levels of $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple to $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a couple), and make other improvements to the SSI program that simplify administration and support beneficiaries. The Arc strongly supports this important legislation to update and strengthen SSI.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Spending Bill for the Departments of Health & Human Services, Labor, Education, and Related Agencies

On July 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2014 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED).  View the Committee Report.   A few disability-related programs received notable increases:

Special Education:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B grants to states – an increase of $125 million (to $11.7 billion)
  • Early Intervention – an increase of $21 million (to $463 million)
  • Research – an increase of $20 million (to nearly $70 million)

Social Security Administration:

  • Program integrity activities, including continuing disability reviews (CDRs) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) redeterminations – a $441 million increase (to $1.2 billion)
  • Administrative expenses – an increase of $534 million (to $12 billion)

Despite these and other funding increases, it is important to note that the Senate numbers do not account for the automatic across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) in FY 2014 since the Senate Budget Resolution assumed elimination of sequestration. It is likely that one or more continuing resolutions (CR) are likely at this point.

Priced Out in 2012 Documents Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities

Last week, the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the CCD Housing Task Force released a new study, Priced Out in 2012, which documents the housing crisis for people with disabilities. The study compares Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) average fair market rents for one bedroom and efficiency apartments with the average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit for a person with a disability living in the community. Priced Out in 2012 finds that the national average rent for a modestly priced one bedroom apartment is greater than the entire SSI payment of a person with a disability. The study provides data for all states and 2,572 housing market areas across the nation.

In a statement, The Arc’s CEO Peter V. Berns noted that Priced Out highlights the need for programs like the new HUD Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) Demonstration, stating, “Having a safe place to call home is a basic human right and we have a responsibility to ensure individuals with disabilities are given the chance find a home in the community they choose. The Arc calls on Congress to adequately fund the Section 811 PRA Demonstration to help address the housing crisis for people with disabilities.”

Department of Education Announces State Grant Program to Enhance Outcomes for Youth Receiving SSI

The Department of Education has published a notice inviting applications from states for a new competitive grant program, Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE). PROMISE seeks to improve the education and career outcomes of low income children with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program is designed to serve children with disabilities, ages 14-16, who are receiving SSI and their families.

PROMISE is open to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and states may apply together as a consortium. The Department intends to fund three to six projects at $4.5 million to $10 million a year for 5 years. PROMISE encourages formal partnerships with agencies and entities in the state that play a role in the development and implementation of policies and practices that affect child SSI recipients.