House Holds Hearing on Safety Net

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.

House to Hold Hearing on SSI / SSDI, Unemployment Insurance

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.

House and Senate Pass Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolutions: Proposals Include Major Cuts to Programs Including Medicaid

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:

Bills Introduced to Cut Concurrent Social Security Disability Insurance & Unemployment Insurance Benefits

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.

Bill Introduced to Cut Concurrent Social Security Disability Insurance & Unemployment Insurance Benefits

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.

 

Senators Announce Bipartisan Proposal to Extend Emergency Unemployment Compensation

Last week, a group of 10 U.S. Senators led by Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) announced an agreement to reauthorize emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for 5 months.  The bill is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rob Portman (R-OH). The plan will allow for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28, 2013. Unlike some previous proposals, the plan does not propose to partially pay for extending emergency UI by cutting Social Security disability benefits for people who also receive UI. The Arc and other national disability groups have strongly supported extending emergency UI but have strongly opposed cutting Social Security as a partial pay-for. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill soon after returning from recess the week of March 24.