GAO Releases Report on Deaths, Bankruptcies, and Wait Times Among Social Security Benefit Appellees

On August 13, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on death, bankruptcies, and wait times among people appealing Social Security disability determinations. The report found that between the median wait time for people appealing their initial determination was 839 days between fiscal years (FY) 2008 and 2019. The annual death rate increased from 0.52% in 2011 to 0.72% in 2018. In that same period, 109,725 people died while awaiting a final determination. Between FY 2014 and 2019, approximately 48,000 people awaiting appeals filed bankruptcy.

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.

Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act Introduced in the House and Senate

Last week, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (SSI Restoration Act) was introduced in the Senate (S.1387) by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and in the House (H.R. 2442) by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and 25 cosponsors. The bill seeks to restore the SSI program’s original intent of protecting beneficiaries, including people with disabilities and the elderly, against extreme poverty. The bill modernizes SSI resource limits for individuals and couples, to $10,000 and $15,000, respectively. These limits have not been adjusted for inflation since 1989. The bill would also update the general income disregard (to $112 per month) as well as the earned income disregard (to $364 per month) to the amounts they would be currently, if they had been adjusted for inflation since SSI’s inception in 1972. Moving forward, both the SSI resource limits and income disregards would be updated annually for inflation. Lastly, the bill would repeal the SSI in-kind support and maintenance provision as well as the SSI transfer penalty. The SSI Restoration Act was referred in the Senate to the Committee on Finance, and in the House to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Arc applauds the introduction of this bill.