Oct 26, 2015

Disability Trust Fund Issue May Be Near Resolution

     Many news sources are reporting that a massive deal is underway to clear out many issues remaining before the Congress. The most imminent is the debt ceiling. CNN is reporting that the deal will include provisions to extend the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. The New York Times reports that this will involve unspecified cuts in Social Security disability.

     Update: The Associated Press says the deal will involve a temporary reallocation of FICA revenues but "changes to the disability program to fight fraud and to encourage disabled workers to return to work" that would presumably be permanent. We could be revisiting this in the not too distant future.

     Update: CBS News says the deal would include the end of the Single Decision Maker (SDM)program for Social Security disability claims. This isa small change in the big picture but it makes disability determination even slower.

     Update: The New York Times is reporting:
... [T]he Social Security Disability Insurance program would be amended so that a medical exam now required in 30 states before applicants could qualify for benefits would be required in all 50 states. That change was projected to save the government $5 billion. ...
     I haven't the slightest idea what they're talking about.

     Update: From The Hill:
The deal would ... create a "flat benefit" for disability recipients, which would be tied to the federal poverty line rather than an individual's own savings.  The idea of the flat benefit has been championed by budget experts at the Heritage Foundation. 
"This would be the first significant reform to Social Security since 1983, and would result in $168 billion long-term savings," according to a source familiar with the talks.
     Update: George Zornick at The Nation has tweeted that he is hearing that there will not be large or across the board in Social Security disability but that the appeal process may get longer and there may be some demonstration of a benefit offset for disability recipients with earnings.

      To put it mildly, we're getting conflicting reports. Reporters are getting incomplete information and don't understand much of what they're hearing.

     Update: Multiple media reports say the budget deal would save $168 billion in Social Security disability. Budget savings are generally reported for a ten year period. For purposes of comparison, Social Security is paying out about $150 billion a year. You wouldn't get that kind of savings without massive across the board cuts.

      Update: Time magazine reporting budget deal will involve a change in the way in which Social Security disability benefits are computed.


Anonymous said...

They plan on doing away with the SDM program and require medical/psychological docs to make the decisions

Anonymous said...

The flat benefit would be $858.00/mth using Heritage Foundation information. The assumption is that by keeping the benefit at poverty level or close to it then people would opt for disability insurance from a private carrier to make up the amount they want vs what the Social Security Administration will pay.

Anonymous said...

$858.00 would be below any poverty line I'm aware of in the U.S.


Ricardo333 said...

The Heritage Foundation provides more details:


Ricardo333 said...

The 2015 Federal Poverty Level for one person is $11,770 per year.
$11,770 divided by 12 months is $980.00 per month. The Heritage Foundation's calculation of $858.00 per month is $122.00 less then
the poverty level.


Anonymous said...

This is the bill. http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151026/BILLS-114hr-PIH-BUDGET.pdf

While there are various changes to disability that will have to be looked at more closely, there is nothing that I saw that even discusses the calculation of benefits aside from some offsets for work activity and data gathering as to earnings that could impact benefits.

I certainly saw nothing like what Heritage Foundation's absolutely grotesque ideas to cap benefits at poverty levels in the future. If anyone else sees them, please post and advise as to where.

Anonymous said...


"The agreement would raise spending by $80 billion over two years, not including a $32 billion increase included in an emergency war fund. Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits"

This is what happens when poor mostly white republican voters vote based on immigration. I expect republicans will continue to support outsourcing of american jobs while passing legislation to harm 99% of americans.

Annie42 said...

The NYT appears to be confusing the signature of someone with a medical degree on a form prepared by a claims examiner with a "medical exam." This would be the effect of eliminating the SDM program.

Anonymous said...

The bill can be found here http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151026/BILLS-114hr-PIH-BUDGET.pdf

Anonymous said...

I did a quick read of the SSA portions of that bill, and I don't see anything major about the way benefits are calculated, or any draconian new rules. The last section appears to provide for more ALJ's, though. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, I read it through a 6 am haze.)

kainah said...

thank you for the informed discussion. It's amazing and alarming how freely reporters will toss information around about issues that impact people's lives dramatically without actually having the slightest understanding of what they're talking about. And then we're off to the races with fundraising propaganda from both sides.

R.A. Greenman said...

I to have seen the flat pay figure but it was 875 across the board. I would like to know if the cut effect current recipients or future ones. I know one thing. I can't live on 875 I'm having a hell of a time with 1500.

R.A. Greenman said...

I to have seen the flat pay figure but it was 875 across the board. I would like to know if the cut effect current recipients or future ones. I know one thing. I can't live on 875 I'm having a hell of a time with 1500.

Candice Apple & Associates said...

Thank you for sharing the most up to date information. Great points in the discussion thread! If you have questions regarding how this will affect you, contact http://www.candiceapple.com/

Ricardo333 said...

If the new benefit amount is $858-875, it will incentivise people to do one of three things: 1) Avoid going on disability because the amount is too low. 2) Get a job and get off of disability. 3) And for the severely disabled, end your life, because living below the poverty level is like hanging by your neck with your feet barely touching the ground. This is indeed a Republican solution: Work or die.