Feb 4, 2015

Republicans Praise Coburn Bill

     From BloombergView:
Before leaving office last year, former Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma introduced legislation with that goal. His bill called for intervention programs to spot and help people when injury or illness first threatens their livelihood. Medical and therapeutic technology has improved dramatically over the past two decades, but those advances aren't always available to everyone, especially those in low-skill, low-wage professions. Offering medical help, rehabilitation or other benefits can encourage workers to stay employed.
Coburn's measure also proposed to withdraw disability payments less abruptly for those who can still work, even if it's in a lower-wage job or only part time. In effect, their wages would be topped up with payments akin to the earned income tax credit.  The most pernicious incentive in the current system is the "cash cliff" that halts benefits to those who earn any meaningful income. When people try to support themselves, they deserve to be encouraged, not punished.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the new Finance Committee chairman, has supported this approach to reforming disability insurance. Democrats have resisted the idea, arguing that it's wrong to save money at the expense of the disabled. In fact, the Coburn-Hatch approach to promoting employment would aim to save money, if at all, more by raising revenues (thanks to taxes on higher employment) than by cutting benefits.
     I am unaware of any statement by Senator Hatch to the effect that he supports the Coburn bill. However, I learned about this piece from a tweet by Sam Johnson, the Chair of the House Social Security Subcommittee, who seemed to express approval. Also, this piece is a serious misrepresentation of the Coburn bill which is almost exclusively aimed at punishing the disabled.
     Republicans should be realistic. There's no way the Coburn bill gets a majority of Republican votes in either house of Congress much less any Democratic votes. I'm not sure that calling the bill draconian goes far enough.

21 comments:

Timb said...

It will be used as count 1 in Coburn's soon-to-be-filed invitation to spend a long time in Hell. Count 2 will be the time he said he received "a lot of questionnaires from attorneys" on disability claims when he was practicing, which counted on the listener being unaware that he was OB/GYN

Anonymous said...

The belief that large numbers of DI recipients can work show s just how dopey or disingenuous, your choice, guys like Hatch and Coburn are. Even with supports out the wazoo, your average DI recipient can't be self supporting. I guess when you believe that they are all a bunch of fakers, it's easy believe they can work.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in support of the above bill per se. I can't say I've spent much time disecting it. I'd be interested in hearing the alternative to this proposal. The programs have to be reformed to survive long term. Instead of spending too much time attacking this proposal, say it stinks and offer an alternative. I don't think that's done enough.

Anonymous said...

3:26: the "alternative" to Coburn's bill is to allow the normally routine reallocation between the two trust funds. If you want to raise more revenue for the trust funds, remove the FICA cap (or "donut hole" it, meaning that FICA would be again paid for earnings over a certain amount, for instance $250K/yr). But the DI program is not "broken," thus requiring a fix like the bill. Disability award rates are at an all time low. There is no systemic fraud in the program. The increase in overall awards is due to factors predicted years ago that are now waning. Anyone who has working knowledge of the DI program would disagree with your assertion that "the programs have to be reformed to survive long term." Those who would profit by privatizing SS or have a overall hatred of the federal govt want you to believe that fact.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:26
Why allow the normally routine allocation between the two trust funds?
This is simply government borrowing from itself, the left hand borrowing from the right hand.
Is that a legitimate loan?
Are the IOUs issued by the trust funds legitimate loans?
One hand of the government - the general Treasury owing another hand, the trust funds the loan money?
Loans must be between 2 distinct parties or they are a sham.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember mentioning privatization. I also didn't need a regurgitation of previous plans you thought were harmful.
Fraud is more prevalent than the numbers suggest but I agree that fraud is not huge factor.
If the answer is to tax people more then so be it. I don't think the interfund borrowing is the long term answer. The fact the we can borrow from retirement to pay for the disability doesn't mean we should. In fact, since it's been done multiple times in the past, it indicates a funding problem with the disability program.

Anonymous said...

9:12, what has been done most recently is that the retirement fund had borrowed from the disability fund. This was done purposefully under the advice of actuaries who predicted in 1994 that the DI program would then need help in 2016 due to simple demographics. They were spot on but now opponents of the program are seizing on this and are not acknowledging these facts.

Anonymous said...

As widely reported now, the republicans attempt to manufacture a crisis designed to provide cover for attempts at cutting benefits for people with disabilities and to provide leverage for other political goals.

I support all reasonable efforts to help people with disabilities who want to work. However the disability definition is so strict that those efforts will only ever be able to help a small percentage of recipients (if you look at the studies basically 3 to 5 percent tops). That being said, 3 to 5 percent is significant and each person who is able to return to work, particularly young people, represents a significant savings for the program.

The problem, as Chuck indicates, is that other aspects of Coburn's proposals focus on punishing people with disabilities. If you followed Coburn's statements and actions, particularly the misrepresentations in the reports and committee meetings he presided over the past few years, it's clear he is no friend to people with disabilities. Adopting his proposals would hurt a lot of people who need help.

Anonymous said...

So it's only happened twice? What's the next crisis the actuaries have identified that will cause one to borrow from the other?

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, we would be in better shape if Obama hadn't cut the Social Security tax 1%? Dumbest thing ever. Why do Democrats fight raising the SS tax? They raise every other tax.

Anonymous said...

Bingo...they cut the FICA tax and then blame the right for trying to cut benefits...lol. Now the it's the rights turn to do something stupid and then blame the left. Who suffers...the middle class of course.

Anonymous said...

9:12: what facts do you base your assertion that fraud is more prevalent than the numbers suggest? Fox News? 60 Minutes? The real fraud exists for my legitimately disabled clients and their families who are being denied by the all-too-common now ALJs with 18% pay rates. Not to be dramatic, but when you take calls from family members informing you of suicides or sobbing clients who lose their homes because they can't return to work and are being denied benefits, these numbers quickly gain human faces.

Anonymous said...

8:59 & 9:18
There is exactly the same amount of $ in the Trust funds before and after the payroll tax "cut". Every dollar lost in the "cut" was put back in by the Treasury. In other words, the treasury borrowed money to cover putting a little more money in people's pay checks from lower FICA withholding.

Pay closer attention.

Anonymous said...

9:12, you ask what we base our assertion that fraud is more prevalent than the numbers suggest and then you make the statement "all-too-common now ALJs with 18% pay rates". One might inquire as to where you get your information. 18% pay rate is not common at all. As a matter of fact, it is at the very lowest protion of outliers. Kinda blew your crediblity there, eh, what???

Anonymous said...

12:03: from the NOSSCR forum newsletter sitting on my desk:

"The national allowance rate at the ALJ level has fallen dramatically from 62% in 2007 to 48% in FY 2013. This is the first time the ALJ allowance rate has fallen below 50% in many years and is the lowest rate in more than 30 years. We are concerned that this drop in approvals is due to a change in culture that encourages ALJs to deny claims."

There are numerous ALJs in my area with published pay rates in the high teens to low-mid twenties.

This is how I get my information...

Anonymous said...

The only way you are finding numerous ALJs in any part of the country with "published" pay rates in the high teens to low-to-mid twenties is if you are looking at the Disability Judges website, which does its math wrong because it counts dismissals as a percentage.

The true pay/denial rate is based on decisions issued (cases where a finding of disabled or not disabled is actually made), not dispositions issued (which includes dismissals, which would average around 10%, higher for HOCALJs).

Dan Smith said...

@3:30

That's mostly true, except when it comes to the occassional ALJ that makies a habit of informing the rep just before or during the hearing that they plan to issue a denial, and gives the claimant the option to withdraw instead. Most of their dismissals would thus more accurately be classified as denials.

Anonymous said...

@4:33 I would hope, as a licensed attorney and SSA employee, that the practice you described is so uncommon (because it is so inappropriate and unethical) its impact on payrates is negligible.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

Wow, how can a client possibly have a fair hearing if an ALJ has announced he will deny the claim before any testimony is given? Absent some extraordinary circumstance that should, at very least, draw an immediate request for recusal.

Anonymous said...

So, what happened to Coburn? His term is not up. Are the American taxpayers paying him to slack off and fail to fulfill his duty? I know he does not believe that any type of illness "really" keeps an individual from working, unless of course, they just don't "want" to work. Is he drawing some type of disability check currently? Waaaite a minute here.....

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that Sen Coburn has left the Senate because he is battling cancer. You'd think that might make him a bit more sympathetic to others with health problems, but nooo. Obviously he is one of those folks who truly believes he is the author of his own good fortune, with no help from others, and that anyone who's down-and-out deserves it due to their own actions.