The current administration has proposed a new regulation that would require 4.4 million Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) recipients to undergo more frequent reviews for eligibility. Currently, there are three categories that apply to those who have permanent impairments preventing them from working at any job in the local economy. These are: medical improvement not expected, medical improvement expected, and medical improvement possible. The new rule would add a category called “medical improvement likely.”
“Many of the beneficiaries potentially affected are either children or Step 5 beneficiaries aged 50 to 65 years old, who are too impaired to work and often have no other source of income,” said Jeffrey M. Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “Realistically, individuals in poor health over the age of 50 do not improve as they age, they deteriorate, especially when they are living below the poverty line.” (SSD benefits average $1,200/month)
Government officials often refer to Social Security as an “entitlement” program. In fact, it is an insurance program. Every worker in the U.S. pays into Social Security through their paycheck. In return they are insured against loss of income when they reach old age, are disabled and can no longer work, or become surviving dependents of a worker who has died.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan implemented a similar cutback on Social Security Disability (SSD) that resulted in 200,000 people losing their benefits and the deaths of 21,176 beneficiaries, including several by suicide. That regulation was revoked when a public outcry influenced Congress to act.
“Subjecting SSD and SSI recipients to more frequent reviews is an attack on the most vulnerable members of our society in the same way cutting food stamps and similar programs attacks them,” Freedman said. “It is already extremely difficult to obtain SSD or SSI benefits. The United States’ disability eligibility requirements are stricter than any country in the developed world: more than half of applicants are denied.”
The Social Security Administration is collecting comments until January 31, 2020, Freedman said. He urges concerned citizens to call or write the Social Security Administration and their elected officials, voicing their objections to the proposed regulation.