Social Security – SSA Announces Cost of Living Increases for 2019

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2019. 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 2019 COLA will increase benefits modestly. According to SSA, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker will increase by $39, from $1,422 in 2018 to $1,461 in 2019. The average monthly benefit for a Social Security disabled worker beneficiary will increase by $34, from $1,222 in 2018 to $1,234 in 2019. In addition, the SSI Federal Payment Standard will increase from $750 per month in 2018 to $771 per month in 2019. 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 2019 Social Security COLA.

Social Security – House Committee Holds Hearing on SSA’s Information Technology

On September 27, the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the “State of Social Security’s Information Technology.” Witnesses were Rajive Mathur, Deputy Commissioner of Systems and Chief Information Officer, Social Security Administration; Gale Stallworth Stone, Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration; and Carol C. Harris, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office. Visit the Committee web site to review testimony and archived video.

Social Security – Bill Introduced to Enhance Benefits for Widow(er)s with Disabilities

Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2018 (SWIFT Act; S. 3457). The bill seeks to fix outdated and arbitrary Social Security benefit provisions for widow(er)s with disabilities and surviving divorced spouses. The bill would: allow widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to receive 100% of the survivor benefit they are entitled to regardless of their age; give widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses the ability to increase the value of their survivor benefits beyond current arbitrary caps; enable widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses caring for children to receive child-in-care benefits until their children are age 18 or 19 if still in school; and require the federal government to proactively provide information to widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses about benefits they are eligible for, claiming options, and important deadlines. The Arc supports the SWIFT Act as a much-needed enhancement to Social Security benefits. Visit the Senate Committee on Aging to view a press release and learn more about the SWIFT Act.

Social Security – House Committee to Hold Hearing on the State of Social Security’s Information Technology

On September 27, the House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the “State of Social Security’s Information Technology.” The hearing will examine “the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) information technology (IT), including modernization, management, and acquisitions.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Social Security/Employment – Senator Introduces Bill to Fund Paid Parental Leave by Cutting Social Security

On August 1, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Economic Security for New Parents Act (S.3345). This bill allows workers to receive 12 weeks paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child by reducing their Social Security retirement benefits. Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) has indicated that she plans to introduce similar legislation in September. The bill does not provide medical leave or leave to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. The Arc opposes S.3345; read The Arc’s statement here.

Social Security – House Committee Holds Hearing on Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process

Last week, the House Committee and Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on “Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process.” As stated in the Committee’s announcement, the hearing focused on “…recent and planned changes affecting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability appeals process, the metrics the SSA uses to evaluate process changes, and the progress the SSA has made to address the appeals backlog.” Visit the Committee web site for testimony and archived video of the hearing.

Following the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT) led all Subcommittee Members in a bipartisan letter to Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy Berryhill stating that the agency should not proceed with plans to reinstate the reconsideration level of appeal in 10 states, until a Senate-confirmed Commissioner is sworn in. President Trump has nominated Andrew Saul of New York to be Commissioner of Social Security.

Social Security – House Committee to Hold Hearing on Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process

On July 25, the House Committee and Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process.” As stated in the Committee’s announcement, “[t]he hearing will focus on recent and planned changes affecting the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability appeals process, the metrics the SSA uses to evaluate process changes, and the progress the SSA has made to address the appeals backlog.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Social Security – Social Security Fairness Act Introduced

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 3147; H.R. 6251), joined by 6 cosponsors in the Senate and 31 in the House. The bill would set Social Security Administration’s (SSA) administrative funding at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments, a significantly more adequate level compared to current funding. The bill would also eliminate the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the 24-month waiting period for SSDI beneficiaries to qualify for Medicare. Finally, the bill would implement a moratorium on all closures of SSA field offices and contact stations. H.R. 6251 has been referred to the Committees on Ways and Means, Budget, Rules, and Energy and Commerce; S. 3147 has been referred to the Committee on Finance. The Arc supports this legislation to strengthen administration and customer service across Social Security’s programs and to end unnecessary and harmful waiting periods that SSDI beneficiaries currently endure.