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.
Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means marked up the Social Security Online Tools Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX). As amended by the Committee, the bill would require the Social Security Administration to create within 2 years an online tool or tools to allow Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to estimate the potential impact of earnings on their benefits. The bill would also prohibit recovery of any overpayments that arise from a beneficiary relying on inaccurate information from the tool (in the event of inaccuracy by the tool). The Committee reported the amended bill favorably by a voice vote. The Arc supports the bill, as amended and approved by the Committee, to provide SSDI beneficiaries with important information about opportunities to work and the impact of earnings on their SSDI benefits.
On July 11, the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy held a hearing on “Examining the Importance of Paid Family Leave for American Working Families.” Witnesses were Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA); Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Andrew Biggs, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Vicki Shabo, Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies, National Partnership for Women & Families; and Carolyn O’Boyle, Managing Director, Deloitte Services, LLP. Visit the Committee web site for more information including opening statements, testimony, and archived video of the hearing.
Last week, the Social Security Board of Trustees released “The 2018 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.” The 2018 report finds that at the end of 2017, Social Security’s reserves were $2.89 trillion. The Trustees continue to project that Social Security’s combined Trust Funds can pay all scheduled benefits through 2034, at which point the Trust Funds would be able to pay approximately 79 percent of scheduled benefits. The Trustees also find that the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund can pay full scheduled benefits through 2032, after which the fund will be able to pay about 96 percent of scheduled benefits. This is 4 years later than projected in the 2017 Trustees Report, due to ongoing declines in applications, awards, and the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits. Additional key points about the Trustees Report are available from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force.
The Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the 2018 Trustees Report. The witness was Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony and archived video.
On May 17, the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on Securing Americans’ Identities: The Future of the Social Security Number. As stated in the Committee’s announcement, the hearing will examine “[t]he dangers of the use of the Social Security number (SSN) as both an identifier and authenticator and examine policy considerations and possible solutions to mitigate the consequences of SSN loss or theft.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.
On April 12, President Trump nominated Andrew M. Saul as Commissioner and David Fabian Black as Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Both are being appointed for the remainder of six-year terms expiring January 19, 2019. Andrew Saul is also being nominated for an additional six-year term expiring January 19, 2025. He is currently a partner with Saul Partners, L.P. and a Commissioner for Westchester County, NY. David Black is currently the White House Senior Advisor at SSA. Previously, he served as SSA’s General Counsel and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. SSA administers Social Security programs such as Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These nominations must be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Last week, the Senate approved by unanimous consent the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547). Introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT), the bill makes numerous changes to Social Security’s representative payee program designed to enhance oversight and operations of the program. The House approved the bill in February; following last week’s Senate approval, the bill will next be transmitted to the President for his signature. Visit the Committee on Ways and Means web site to view summaries and related materials about the bill. The Arc strongly supports this bipartisan legislation to strengthen Social Security’s representative payee program and applauds the House and Senate votes.
On March 7 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “Lacking a Leader: Challenges Facing the SSA after over 5 Years of Acting Commissioners.” As stated in the Committee’s announcement “The hearing will focus on the need for a Senate-confirmed Commissioner to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA), the challenges and limitations faced by the SSA when it is led by an Acting Commissioner, and the legal framework that governs a vacancy at the SSA.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video the day of the hearing.
Last week, the House voted 396-0 to pass the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017 (H.R. 4547). Introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT), the bill makes numerous changes to Social Security’s representative payee program designed to enhance oversight and operations of the program. Visit the Committee on Ways and Means web site to view summaries and related materials about the bill. The Arc strongly supports this bipartisan legislation to strengthen Social Security’s representative payee program.
Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and John Larson (D-CT) have introduced the “Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act” (H.R. 4500). The bill would repeal a 1996 change in law that allowed earned benefits to be garnished by the federal government to collect federal debts, such as student loans and home loans owed to the Veterans Administration. The bill would prevent garnishment of Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability benefits – as well as other earned benefits – to collect federal debts. Earlier this year, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a Senate version of this bill (S. 959). View a Huffington Post column by Rep. Grijalva for more information about the bill. The Arc strongly supports this much-needed legislation to maintain basic living standards for Social Security beneficiaries struggling to pay student loans and other federal debts.