Political Wrangling Over Social Security Disability Has Increased
The Republicans made a rule change on the first day of the 114th Congress to prevent a transfer of monies from the Social Security Retirement Fund to the Social Security Disability (SSD) Fund. The President has now released his proposed budget and is countering the House's actions.
The House Rule Change
The House Rule change will not allow a direct money transfer, but does allow a money transfer if there is a reduction in benefits or increase in taxes so there will be no net reduction in the combined trust funds. “In practical terms, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare says, that makes the reallocation impossible; it mandates either benefit cuts across the board, which aren't politically palatable, or a payroll tax increase, which isn't palatable to the GOP.”
The President's Budget
In President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 budget, he responded to the House rule change. “Any reforms should strengthen retirement security for the most vulnerable, including low-income seniors, and should maintain robust disability and survivors' benefits. The Administration will oppose any measures that privatize or weaken the Social Security system and will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations or reduces basic benefits for current beneficiaries.”
The President countered the House's stance. Instead of forcing changes on the SSD system under the gun of depleted funding, the President demanded a reasonable conversation. “To address reserve depletion of the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, the Budget proposes to reallocate existing payroll tax collections between the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and DI trust funds while a longer-term solution to overall Social Security solvency is developed with the Congress.”
The President also stressed work programs for disabled individuals in order to lessen the stress on the SSD fund. “Early-intervention measures, such as supportive employment services for individuals with mental impairments, targeted incentives for employers to help workers with disabilities remain on the job, and incentives and opportunities for States to better coordinate services, have the potential to achieve long-term gains in the employment and the quality of life of people with disabilities, and the proposed demonstrations will help build the evidence base for future program improvements.”
Another proposal the President made was to increase funding for not only decreasing the initial disability determination backlog, but also to be able to properly review SSD files to assure that benefits continue to be warranted. “To continue to strengthen the integrity and accuracy of Social Security, the Budget proposes to establish a dependable source of mandatory funding in 2017 for Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) and Supplemental Security Income Redeterminations, which ensure that only those eligible for benefits continue to receive them. SSA estimates that each $1 spent on CDRs would save the Federal Government $9. This proposal, together with discretionary funding proposed for 2016, could produce net savings of $32 billion over 10 years and reduce the current backlog of 906,000 overdue CDRs.”
The political wrangling is underway, but changes have not been made yet. Having an attorney on your side to keep track of your paperwork and the possible changes to the SSD program can give you peace of mind. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.