The last time this policy was implemented, 21,176 people died. Stop this now!
Trump is becoming bolder about doing things that kill people, either to pay back his biggest lobbyists, distract from his impeachment woes, or to prove his bonafides in the trickle-down war on the poor.
His administration now wants to recreate a 1980’s policy from the Reagan era that resulted in 200,000 Americans losing their earned Social Security disability benefits and 21,176 deaths. Several people committed suicide after being told they no longer qualified for benefits and Medal of Honor winner and Vietnam war hero Roy Benavidez was told to get a job, despite war injuries that left him with severe pain and shrapnel in his heart.
After massive public outcry, that policy was reversed, but now the administration is proposing a similar rule, which increases the frequency of eligibility reviews in an attempt to rip benefits away from hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities, especially adults nearing retirement and children.
So we say…Why wait to howl until AFTER people die? Let’s do it NOW!
- Proposed rule change here.
- Comment here.
- View other comment for inspiration only here.
Copies will be deleted by the administration.
While Social Security is best known as a retirement program, disability and survivors benefits are equally essential. That’s why we’re rallying our allies across the country to fight back against this proposed rule change and save the lives of thousands of Americans.
(chn) On November 18, 2019, the Social Security Administration published a notice in the Federal Register calling on comments regarding when and how often the SSA conducts continuing disability reviews (CDRs) for Social Security Disability insurance beneficiaries. While the Trump administration claims that this change would help identify beneficiaries who can go back to work at the earliest point possible, the Coalition on Human Needs believes this proposal would strip Social Security Disability benefits from many of those who need them most.
Background: Between 1981-1984, the Reagan administration implemented a policy resulting in more than 315,000 Americans being denied their earned Social Security disability benefits. The denials were so misguided that nearly two-thirds of those terminated were reinstated. People suffering from cancer, strokes, mental illness and many other serious conditions had to struggle while they appealed; some did not have the resources to appeal. Even taking into account successful appeals, over 200,000 lost benefits. More than 21,000 of those denied benefits lost their lives. At the time, thanks to a massive public outcry, the Reagan administration was forced to reverse this attack on Social Security.
What does this proposed rule do?
- Like the Reagan rule, it increases how often most people receiving Social Security disability benefits would have their disabilities reviewed.
- NOW: Once people qualify, often after years of struggle, they face continuing disability reviews (CDRs), or routine reviews to see if they still meet the disability standard.
- If medical improvement is expected, the claim is reviewed in six to 18 months.
- If medical improvement ispossible, SSA will review the claim every three years. If medical improvement is not expected, SSA will review the claim every five to seven years.
- PROPOSED: SSA would review most people every two years instead. SSA plans to conduct an additional 1.1 million full medical reviews over the next ten years, and additional 1.5 million smaller-scale reviews, over and above their normal CDR reviews.
What they can’t prove: With its proposals to cut food benefits, the Trump administration has insisted that former recipients will be better off if they’re forced to go get jobs. But with the disability proposal, the administration admitted it “cannot currently quantify” how many might find work. Past research on incomes of former disability recipients shows low earnings and high poverty rates.
Who will this hurt most? This time, the proposed rule would disproportionately harm two groups of people: adults nearing retirement age and children. It would also affect people with serious behavioral health conditions, and people who have cancer.
- Adults: There are two ways that adults can get disability benefits: (1) they can meet some narrow medical criteria, called the Listings, or (2) they can show that they cannot work. Most older adults get benefits the second way, because as people with disabilities age, it becomes much more difficult to work. The proposed rule specifically targets people who get benefits that second way, so older adults who cannot work because of their disabilities would be disproportionately harmed.
- Children: It would mandate automatic reviews as children reach school age (age 6) and adolescence (age 12), and it targets impairments that particularly affect children and youth, like speech disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, and asthma.
- Specific issues: The proposed rule further targets certain serious behavioral health conditions, like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. It also targets people who have disabilities due to cancer.
The government just want to do more frequent CDR’s. Why is this a problem?
- Qualifying for disability benefits is difficult and stressful. It is not uncommon for eligible people to apply several times, and wait for years, to qualify. The CDR process can be equally hard to navigate. People who undergo full medical reviews have to fill out extensive paperwork and provide medical evidence. In some cases, they have to visit SSA doctors. If they miss a step, their benefits can be cut off for non-cooperation. Throughout the process, the threat of losing needed income hangs over their heads. For people with conditions like anxiety or depression, the process exacerbates existing disabilities. More frequent disability reviews makes the process even worse for people.
- CDRS may literally cost too much for beneficiaries to complete. To effectively document that benefits should continue, beneficiaries often must pay for existing medical records; make additional medical appointments so their providers can complete paperwork or perform additional testing; and potentially hire a representative to assist them in completing CDR paperwork, attending Disability Hearing Officer and Administrative Law Judge hearings, and appealing to the Appeals Council and federal courts. Although SSA does not mandate these expenditures, the high likelihood of benefit termination without them makes that a distinction without a difference. Beneficiaries who do not promptly elect continuation of benefits during the CDR process and any subsequent appeals can be without income for months or years; those who do opt to have their income continue may be faced with overpayments withheld from future Social Security benefits, tax refunds, or other sources.
- The SSA regularly does not follow the law for CDRs. In conducting CDRs, SSA is supposed tolook at whether people have “medically improved” – a very specific legal standard. Advocates have been complaining to SSA for years that it does not follow its own law for CDRs. More frequent CDRs mean that SSA has more opportunities to disregard the law.
- More frequent reviews also means that people with serious medical conditions will be more likely to be terminated. As described at the top of this post, SSA has tried to use CDRs to terminate large groups of people once before, with disastrous results. Between 1981 and 1984, SSA undertook mass eligibility reviews of disability benefits recipients with the goal of saving money, and nearly 485,000 recipients were cut off (judges later reinstated about60% of the recipients). After a massive public outcry, Congress forced SSA to adopt the “medical improvement” standard for CDRs.
- No proven benefits: The proposed rule would require millions of people with serious health conditions to undergo more frequent reviews of their medical conditions, but there is no evidence that conditions will have improved enough to allow them to work with adequate earnings. While the Trump Administration claims they will be able to work, their own proposal cites evidence to the contrary: a study of people denied Social Security Disability benefits found that three years after loss of benefits only about one in five (22 percent) was able to sustain even modest earnings.
How many will be harmed this time?
- SSA refuses to say how many people it expects to cut off benefits due to the proposed rule, despite inquiries by advocates and policymakers.
- Here is what we do know: SSA plans to conduct 2.6 million more CDRs over the next ten years, and SSA expects to pay people $2.6 billion fewer in disability benefits as a result.
- Altogether, 2.6 million people could be at risk of losing benefits. Based on the existing CDR cut- off rate, hundreds of thousands of people will stop receiving disability benefits as a result of this new rule.
More paperwork, less support.
- SSA already struggles to manage its existing caseload. People can wait months to have their initial applications reviewed and years for hearings with judges to plead their cases. The proposed rule would push more people into the system, likely slowing it down for everyone.
- SSA does plan to spend an additional $1.8 billion on administration under the new rule, to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to conduct an additional 2.6 million reviews over ten years. So not much less than the amount they’d save.
- But disability experts doubt whether even that huge increase in federal spending will be enough to prevent new slowdowns in SSA review processes. For example, the new spending does not appear to take into account the costs of processing brand new applications for people who get cut off benefits and need to reapply from scratch.
The Community Legal Services of Philadelphia’s No New Burdens Page This page provides detailed information on how these rule changes would hurt people with disabilities. They have also published a detailed action alert at this link here.
The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives has published their comment on the proposed rule change here.
The Huffington Post: Trump Administration Quietly Goes After Disability Benefits
The Huffington Post: Cutting Social Security Disability Benefits Can Backfire Horribly
The New York Times: Another Disability Disaster in the Making