The Political Salvos Are Flying Over Social Security Disability
The impending shortfall in the Social Security Disability (SSD) Insurance trust fund has been front and center in Washington this past week. The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing about the status of the program on February 11, 2015.
The Senate Budget Committee Hearing
Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., opened the hearing by stating that, “disabled Americans and workers deserve a long-term solution so that the program that doesn't once again flirt with disaster and, more importantly, reflects the full ability of the disabled to contribute their talents to our country.” Senator Enzi described the challenges cuts that those receiving SSD benefits would face. He further argued that the impending cuts had been predicted for years and that President Obama had ignored this impending disaster. Senator Enzi then stated that Social Security has no money, whatsoever. “There are not dollars stashed away anywhere. There are no dollars in the disability trust fund and there are no dollars in the social security trust fund. More accurately it should be called accounts payable because it is further debt. We spent the money.”
Senator Enzi proposed revamping the SSD program to encourage more disabled individuals to work. He pointed to the fact that when the program began, most workers were in manual labor fields and truly could not work in their original jobs once injured. But today, disabled workers have many more options, in part due to the workplace changes to facilitate disabled employment as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Carolyn W. Colvin, the Social Security Administration Acting Commissioner, also spoke at the hearing advocating for a reallocation of a portion of the payroll tax rate to prevent the SSD trust fund from needing to cut benefits by approximately 20% come December 2016. She pointed out that the SSD definition of disability is very stringent and those who receive SSD benefits have significant disabilities that prevent a significant portion of them from being able to work again. For individuals who were funneled through a couple of intervention programs, there was an increase in individuals finding part-time work, but their wages did not amount to enough income to remove them from the SSD rolls.
Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times refuted some of Senator Enzi's comments. Regarding the trust funds having no money: “The trust funds hold trillions of dollars of U.S. Treasury bonds bought and paid for by payroll taxes collected from American workers since 1983; these transfers have been certified, in writing, every year by U.S. treasury, secretaries and other cabinet members, Republican and Democrat, and accepted by Congress.”
As for those receiving SSD, they will continue receiving benefits, but those benefits will be cut by 20%. Senator Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., issued a statement pointing out that the impending 20% benefits cut would be “a horribly devastating cut for individuals – most of whom are in their 50's and in poor health – to absorb beginning next year. In fact, since most disability recipients receive barely $1,200 a month, a cut of nearly 20 percent could mean the difference between affording food, medicine, clothing or paying bills.”
As this political fight plays out in the halls of Congress, additional workers require the assistance afforded by the SSD program. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced SSD attorney to assist you.