Aug 21, 2012

Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Wants Work Incentives Planning Programs Back

     Sam Johnson, Chairman of the House Social Security Subcommittee, sent Commissioner Michael Astrue a letter complaining about Astrue's decision to end two programs that assist disability benefits recipients in planning return to work. Apparently, Johnson and Astrue are trading legalistic arguments over the subject. The underlying problem is that Social Security's budget is ridiculously tight and neither program ever demonstrated much than one could reasonably call success. 
     We needs to understand a couple of things:
  • Everything anyone can imagine to encourage disability benefits recipients to return to work has been tried, including tossing many people off disability benefits. None of it has succeeded in returning more than a tiny percentage of people to work.
  • The only thing anyone can reasonably do to make even a marginal difference in the rate of return to work is to simplify Social Security's return to work incentives. Over the decades, there has been constant Congressional interest in painlessly cutting the numbers of people drawing disability benefits by enticing disability benefits recipients back to work. Again and again, Congress has passed some new incentive program to go on top of the incentive programs already in place.This has left us with a ridiculous crazy quilt of work incentives that almost no one understands. You don't solve the problem by diverting scarce resources to hiring work incentive specialists. Their existence was a symptom of the problem. You solve the problem by simplifying. If the work incentives can't be explained in two simple sentences, they're too complicated.


Anonymous said...

Rather than passing more rules and regulations to get disabled people back to work, why not instead scrap most of those regs, simplify it, and focus on employer incentives

In other words, encourage employers with tax credits, tax breaks, etc to hire people on SSDI or SSI. Encourage them to hire them at a living wage and then simply use the Trial Work Period.

By placing the focus on incentives to employers to hire rather than the disabled to apply, you might get a better result.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, giving money to the job creators is the solution.

First, what employers are going to pay a living wage to employees that are, on the whole, going to require significant accommodations and seemingly be less productive than the average worker?

My not-so-bold prediction is that this course of action would result in tax breaks to the employers, and SS-receiving employees being fired once the tax breaks dry up (or before), only to return to the rolls (if they worked long enough to be booted from them in the first place).

How's about effective medical treatment in this country? Sure, some disabilities are unlikely to ever improve enough to allow one to return to competitive work. But there are tons of ailments that can, and mental health issues immediately spring to mind. If we spent money on the front end on good medical care, especially mental health care, we would save so much money on the back end through increased productivity, less disabilty payments, etc. The best solution is to address the problem, not ameliorate its effects.

But with our government and populace drive for quarterly profits and no upfront costs, this will never happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 11:13 AM, August 21, 2012 but only to a small degree.

Anyone here seen the green lantern movie? Oh wait,what am i thinking most of you maybe SSA employees.

In this movie it was said,if i'm not mistaken,"fear is the enemy of will". So logically if you remove the beneficiaries's fear then more would try although probably fail at some point by quitting or being fired.

Actually the commissioner could add an additional meaning of disability covering beneficiaries who meet the spirit of the ADA.

Anonymous said...

Medical treatment and universal health care is a key factor. How many reps have clients who could return to work quickly if they had not lost their insurance when they had to leave their work? Cobra is one possibility, but often too expensive.

Also, beef up the states' vocational rehab agencies. Spend some money in truly retraining people into new positions, or training them in the first place. Again, how many reps have had clients ask about the VE at their hearing: is this guy going to help me get training? A lot of people might see no need to even apply for disability if they felt there was an alternative that could lead them to work.