A threat of far more immediate and severe consequences looms for many older and disabled Americans if Congress does not act.
The Social Security Trustees say the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund, on which millions of Americans depend daily, will be insolvent by late 2016. Our own members of Congress, Rep. Doug Collins and Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, should distinguish the important from the urgent, and fixing the disability insurance Trust Fund has become urgent.
Why? Because if Congress does nothing in this session, there will be a 20 percent across-the-board cut in disability benefits in less than 18 months. This would mean that more than 9 million Americans currently depending on SSDI benefits would lose them.
How? Many on the left have advocated for a reallocation of payroll taxes from the retirement fund to the disability fund, which might offer a temporary (and plainly political) patch for SSDI.
There is an answer. Groups that represent seniors, notably led by the Association of Mature American Citizens, have taken this issue on and offer specific advice. We should ask Congress to follow it.
Specifics? Beyond enforcement of anti-fraud laws, press a “whistleblower” award program. If someone notifies the Social Security Administration that a person claiming “disability” is abusing the system, that whistleblower receives two years of disability payments that would have gone to the abuser, ending the abuser’s draw on the system and triggering deterrence.
More comprehensively, Congress should insist that the Obama Administration revisit the entire determination process for disabilities, methodically modernizing the SSDI medical-vocational “grid” rules to reflect technological advancement, physical condition tracking and modern rehabilitation.
Congress should first, create new disability categories, such as partial and temporary, to cover workers not “totally and permanently disabled,” quickly reducing aggregate numbers on long-term dependence. Then provide employment support services that match those with identified disabilities, returning another set of current beneficiaries to productive work.
Dennis B. Israel