Social Security/Income Support: Representatives Reintroduce SSI Restoration Act

On September 11, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 20 other co-sponsors reintroduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2019 (H.R.4280). The bill would update and enhance the SSI program by updating the general earned income disregard to $123 per month, updating the earned income disregard to $399 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 strongly supports the SSI Restoration Act.

Social Security: House Committee Holds Hearing on Social Security Financing Bill

On July 25, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R.860). The bill would make Social Security benefits more adequate by providing a modest across-the-board increase, improving annual cost of living adjustments, and increasing the minimum Social Security benefit to 25 percent above the federal poverty line. Additionally, it would create a single Social Security Trust Fund to simplify Social Security’s operations and ensure that Social Security is able to pay full scheduled benefits for the next 75 years through modest enhancements to revenues. The Arc strongly supports the Social Security 2100 Act. Testimony from the hearing is available on the committee website.

Social Security: Trustees Release 2019 Annual Report Showing Extended Solvency

On April 22, the Social Security Board of Trustees released “The 2019 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.” The 2019 report finds that at the end of 2018, Social Security’s reserves were $2.89 trillion. The Trustees project that Social Security’s combined Trust Funds can pay all scheduled benefits through 2035, at which point the Trust Funds would be able to pay approximately 80 percent of scheduled benefits. The Trustees also find that the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund can pay full scheduled benefits through 2052, after which the fund will be able to pay about 91 percent of scheduled benefits. This is 20 years later than projected in the 2018 Trustees Report, due to ongoing declines in applications, awards, and the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Social Security: Bill Introduced to Enhance Benefits for Widow(er)s With Disabilities

Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment Act of 2019 (SWIFT Act; S.345). 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 website to view a press release and learn more about the SWIFT Act.

Social Security – Senate Finance Committee Advances SSA Commissioner Nomination

On November 15, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted to favorably report the nomination of Andrew Saul to be Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA administers Social Security programs such as Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Visit the Committee web site for more information or to view archived video of the hearing.

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.