Aug 12, 2015

Some Right Wing Ideas On Reforming Social Security Disability

     The Washington Examiner, a right wing publication publication owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, has a compendium of ideas for reforming Social Security disability. Here are some:
  • Add temporary disability benefits
  • Add partial disability benefits
  • Change the definition of disability to "a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has resulted in a substantial impediment to employment and is expected to result in death or has lasted or is expected to last for continuous periods of at least 12 months."
  • Early intervention to help disabled people to work such as providing career coaches.
     Those proposing these ideas do so because they actually believe that in the long run they would cut costs. They're dead wrong.
     I'd love to see the first three ideas implemented but they're complete non-starters. Temporary disability benefits would be extremely expensive to implement. Partial disability benefits would multiply costs by, who knows, three or four or five times. Changing the definition of disability to merely require a "substantial impediment to employment" would have a similar effect. Early intervention would be extremely difficult to implement and would be ineffective. People can't wrap their minds around the fact that most people who meet Social Security's current definition of disability either suffer from chronic, progressive conditions or suffer from overwhelming mental illness. Early intervention doesn't help them.
     The underlying problem is that no one on the right has a good understanding of Social Security disability. They have attitudes about Social Security disability. Boy, do they have attitudes! But when it comes to actual knowledge, they just don't know their stuff, which is how they come up with this blue sky stuff.


The Angry Optimist said...

"Under the current definition, earning more than a certain level of income puts a person's entire disability benefit at risk — an enormous disincentive to work. The definition allows no leeway for those who can work just a little bit."

This statement seems flatly contradictory. If you can work "just a little bit", going over the SGA limit for DIB recipient should not be a risk. The SGA limit is 12000 per year. That sounds like part-time work to me.

Anonymous said...

can you explain how "temporary" disability benefits would increase costs? I see this as time-limited (fixed duration) benefits, this would save money.

Anonymous said...

I cannot speak for the author, but I think that temporary disability would increase costs in two ways:

1. More claimants means more claims. More traffic at the field offices, more evaluations by State DDSs, more administrative overhead all around.

2. More claimants means more benefits paid. My sense is that a lot of the "temporary" claimants would ultimately somehow convince the Administration that they need to be converted to longer-term or permanent disability. Once someone has their foot in the door, it's harder to get them off benefits.

Anonymous said...

Further to @1:58, a vastly larger number of people have temporary impairments than have long-term/chronic/permanent impairments. The universe of applicants and beneficiaries would very likely skyrocket.

Anonymous said...

Time limited benefits would save money. There is no mention of changing the definition of disability. It means MIEs and MIPs would be put in a new category of time limited benefits. MINEs would be "permanently" disabled. The MIRS standard would be eliminated. Those in time-limited benefits would have to reapply--under the standard in place at the time of their new application. The new application would amount to the CDR (now including work CDR) the applicant should have received. There is a possiblity that it could result in more appeals of the designation of being a MIE or MIP.

Important to note is most of these proposals do not advocate adding a new benefit for those whose disability is expected to last for under one year.

The same could be said of partial disability--available only to MIEs and MIPs--and more like welfare reform--some cash benefits with funds for training etc.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see percentages of disability like the VA uses, or maybe 10% increments. That would give a lot of people some reduced income and encourage getting off disability at the same time. Even a 0, 50, 100 option would help claimants. I get a lot of unfavorable where its close enough that the judge would find some disability, just not 100%.

Anonymous said...


The stats shows that only a very small percentage of people who meet the current disability standards ever improve enough to sustain SGA. Last I looked a higher percentage die within 5-10 years of their grant than ever medically improve to a significant degree, due to the strict disability standards. That being the case, any "temporary disability" proposal is misguided and a poor fit for the reality of the situation.

Can you imagine what the claim backlog would look like if you dumped hundreds of thousands of more "temporary disability" claims on the already stressed and backlogged system? Maybe that is the true goal of the proposal. Kill the system by making it unworkable.

Anyone who works with people with disabilities in this system will also recognize another problem. If you keep requiring people with significant disabilities to repetitively file complex paperwork, dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's to keep their benefits, many will eventually make mistakes and get cut off on technicalities despite still being legitimately disabled. Indeed, many will make such mistakes because of their disability. The result can be inhumane (e.g. people lose their health insurance, become homeless, sicken, etc., while fighting in the even worse backlogged system to get their benefits reinstated). That's a poor proposal that would fail at the purpose for which the Social Security system was created. It only makes sense if you don't care about helping people with disabilities, and just want to cut the size of government.

Anonymous said...

Allowing prospective closed periods (temporary disability) would at least allow those who have severe impairments such as treatable cancer, broken leg, etc., or those who say they just want insurance so they could get treated and get back to work - to get something. If they get denied, they are just going to re-apply again and again anyway. They do already.

Anonymous said...

Republicans just don't like Social Security plain and simple.