SSDI: Time for Action!

A lifeline of financial security for millions of Americans with disabilities, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is currently under attack. Congress must adjust SSDI’s finances by the end of 2016 to prevent a devastating one-fifth across-the-board cut in benefits. Writing in the Journal of Health and Social Work, The Arc’s T.J. Sutcliffe makes the case for how social workers and other professionals in the field can and should support necessary action to strengthen and preserve this vital support for people with disabilities and their families.

Sign up for The Arc’s Capitol Insider weekly e-news and periodic Action Alerts to stay informed on the latest developments and take action to support the SSDI lifeline.

The Arc on New Study That Highlights Housing Crisis for People with Disabilities on Supplemental Security Income

This week, the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force released a study, Priced Out in 2014. This publication is released every two years. The 2014 results show that the national average rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment is greater than the entire average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit for a person with a disability.

Priced Out in 2014 highlights an ongoing barrier to community living for people with disabilities – the lack of accessible, affordable housing. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to live independently in the community, though as highlighted by Priced Out in 2014, many who rely on SSI face severe obstacles to that opportunity. While progress has been made over the last several years with a new, integrated housing model under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 811 program, our nation still has a long way to go. Having a place to call home is a basic human right. The Arc is advocating for Congress to adequately fund the Section 811 project rental assistance program to help address the housing crisis for people with disabilities.

SSI provides basic income to people with significant and long-term disabilities who have extremely low incomes and savings. According to Priced Out in 2014:

  • In 2014, the average annual income of a single, non-institutionalized adult with a disability receiving SSI was $8,995, about 23% below the federal poverty level for the year.
  • As a national average, a person receiving SSI needed to pay 104% of his or her monthly income in order to rent a modest one-bedroom unit. In four states and the District of Columbia, every single housing market area in the state had one-bedroom rents that exceeded 100% of SSI.
  • In 162 housing market areas across 33 states, one-bedroom rents exceeded 100% of monthly SSI. Rents for modest rental units in 15 of these areas exceeded 150% of SSI.
  • People with disabilities receiving SSI were also priced out of smaller studio/efficiency rental units, which on a national basis cost 90% of SSI. In eight states and in the District of Columbia, the average rent for a studio/efficiency unit exceeded 100% of the income of an SSI recipient.

The full results of the study can be viewed on the TAC website.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 811 Project Rental Assistance (PRA) program is an innovative new model that allows states to effectively target rental assistance to enable people with significant disabilities to live in the community. Section 811 is the only HUD program dedicated to creating inclusive housing for extremely low-income people with severe disabilities, including SSI recipients.

House and Senate 2016 Budget Resolutions are an Affront to the Disability Community

The Senate passed its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget Resolution early this morning, following the House’s approval of its own resolution earlier this week. Budget resolutions set the boundaries for federal spending and tax priorities for the fiscal year and the implications are very scary for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families this year.

The House resolution seeks to balance the budget within nine years by cutting $5.5 trillion, while the Senate resolution would balance it in ten years by cutting $5.1 trillion, reflecting differences that could well be resolved in a conference committee. Substantial portions of these cuts come from block granting the Medicaid program (called “flexible state allotments”) and privatizing the Medicare program.   Should a conference agreement pass in both chambers, a process known as budget reconciliation could be triggered to make the proposed changes in the entitlement programs and the tax code alike. This process would likely unravel the social insurance and safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens while simultaneously reducing taxes for those who least need it.

“Bake sales and car washes are simply not an option. Our social insurance and safety net programs require appropriate levels of funding that can only come from the taxes that we pay and from a bipartisan commitment to people with disabilities,” stated Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.   “Most Americans support a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and disability is a bipartisan issue. But the budgets approved in Congress don’t reflect that reality with a ‘cuts only’ approach. Creating even larger wealth inequality in this country through the spending and tax policies promoted in these budgets is an affront to people with I/DD, many of whom are already at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Our government policies should be lifting people up, not pushing them further down.”

To get involved in protecting the rights of people with I/DD, sign up for The Arc’s Action List.

The Arc Joins Over 70 National Organizations to Speak Out Against Attacks on Social Security, SSDI

Social Security and its disability program are incredibly important to people with I/DD, providing modest support to make living independently a reality.  But this vital system is under attack in Washington, DC. Today, The Arc joined other major national organizations to release a letter with Senator Sherrod Brown (below) to oppose any cuts to the program.  Sign up for The Arc’s action center to stay informed and act to stop Congress from making cuts.

March 17, 2015

The Honorable Orrin Hatch

Chair, Committee on Finance

U.S. Senate

219 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Sam Johnson

Chair, Subcommittee on Social Security

Committee on Ways and Means

U.S. House of Representatives

B317 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

The Honorable Paul Ryan

Chair, Committee on Ways and Means

U.S. House of Representatives

1102 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jeff Flake

U.S. Senate

368 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Joe Manchin

U.S. Senate

306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

 

RE:      Opposition to proposals to eliminate or reduce concurrent Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits

Dear Chairman Hatch, Chairman Johnson, Chairman Ryan, Senator Flake, and Senator Manchin:

The undersigned members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Coalition on Human Needs, and the Strengthen Social Security Coalition write to express our opposition to proposals to eliminate or reduce concurrent Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, including the “Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act of 2015” (S. 499; H.R. 918) and the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act of 2015” (S. 343).

SSDI and UI are vital insurance systems established for different purposes. Receiving UI and SSDI concurrently is legal and appropriate. This has been the long-standing position of the Social Security Administration and of the courts. Individuals qualify for SSDI because they have significant disabilities that prevent work at or above Social Security’s Substantial Gainful Activity level (earnings of $1,090 per month, in 2015). At the same time, the Social Security Act encourages SSDI beneficiaries to attempt to work, and those who have done so at a low level of earnings but have lost their job through no fault of their own may qualify for UI. As highlighted in a 2012 Government Accountability Office report, less than one percent of individuals served by SSDI and UI receive concurrent benefits, and the average quarterly concurrent benefit in fiscal year 2010 totaled only about $3,300 (or an average of $1,100 per month).

These extremely modest benefits can be a lifeline to workers with disabilities who receive them, and their families – and as permitted by law are neither “double-dipping” nor improper payments. We are deeply concerned by any prospect of worsening the economic security of workers with disabilities and their families.

In addition, proposed cuts to concurrent benefits single out SSDI beneficiaries with disabilities, treating them differently from other workers under the UI program.

Finally, proposed cuts to concurrent benefits create new disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries, by penalizing individuals who qualify for both SSDI and UI because they have attempted to work, as encouraged by law. The creation of a new work disincentive runs directly counter to our shared goal of expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

For these reasons, the undersigned national organizations strongly oppose the “Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act of 2015” and the “Reducing Overlapping Payments Act of 2015.” We urge Congress to reject these bills and any similar legislation.

Sincerely,

9to5

ACCSES*

AFL-CIO

Alliance for Retired Americans

Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

American Council of the Blind*

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME)

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)*

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs*

Association of University Centers on Disabilities*

Autism National Committee*

Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)*

B’nai B’rith International

Brain Injury Association of America*

Campaign for America’s Future

Center for Community Change Action

Center for Effective Government

Coalition on Human Needs

Community Legal Services*

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund*

Easter Seals*

Equal Rights Advocates

Every Child Matters Education Fund

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

Goodwill Industries International*

Health & Disability Advocates*

Justice in Aging*

Latinos for a Secure Retirement

Lupus Foundation of America*

Lutheran Services in America Disability Network*

MomsRising

NAACP

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Alliance on Mental Illness*

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities*

National Association of Disability Representatives*

National Association of State Directors of Special Education*

National Association of State Head Injury Administrators*

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare*

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council on Aging*

National Council on Independent Living*

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)*

National Down Syndrome Congress*

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Industries for the Blind*

National Multiple Sclerosis Society*

National Organization for Women

National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives*

National Priorities Project

National Respite Coalition*

National Women’s Law Center

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

OWL-The Voice of Women 40+

Paralyzed Veterans of America*

Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Coalition

Social Security Works

SourceAmerica*

Special Needs Alliance*

Strengthen Social Security Coalition

The Arc of the United States*

The Jewish Federations of North America*

The John O’Leary Organization

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law*

Union for Reform Judaism

United Cerebral Palsy*

United Spinal Association*

United Steelworkers (USW)

USAction

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)*

World Institute on Disability*

 

CC:

 

Original cosponsors, S. 499

The Honorable Daniel Coats

The Honorable James M. Inhofe

The Honorable James Lankford

The Honorable Tim Scott

 

Original cosponsors, H.R. 918

The Honorable Todd C. Young

The Honorable Mike Kelly

The Honorable Patrick J. Tiberi

The Honorable Diane Black

The Honorable David G. Reichert

The Honorable Charles W. Boustany, Jr.

The Honorable Adrian Smith

The Honorable James B. Renacci

The Honorable Tom Reed

The Honorable Aaron Schock

 

Members, U.S. Senate

Members, U.S. House of Representatives

 

* Members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

 

The CCD is a coalition of national organizations working together to advocate for federal public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration, and inclusion of the approximately 57 million children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.

DPS 2015 – Get Involved and Get the Facts!

DPS logoThis year’s Disability Policy Seminar is coinciding with some remarkable anniversaries. In 2015 we are set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 50th anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare. The passage of this transformative legislature would not have been possible without the hard work of congressional leaders and disability advocates, like you! We can celebrate these monumental achievements, but we can’t stop there.

We need everyone who can to attend DPS so that every congressional district is represented. We have to keep the momentum going and strengthen our relationships with members of congress so that we can work together to advance our public policy agenda. This year’s Disability Policy Seminar is taking place April 13th- 15th, in Washington, D.C., at a new location – Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel. Come and be a part of the solution by registering today! Early bird registration and discounted pricing is set to end on March 13th. In order to get the most out of hill meetings, you must come to DPS. On the first day of DPS, you’ll be treated to an informative opening session from Rud Turnbull. During his session, Families Making a Difference: How Advocacy Advanced Civil Rights, Rud will explain his family’s journey in gaining meaningful changes in federal disability policy. This session will explore advancing civil rights though the concepts of empathy, compassion, dignity, and the ethical community. It is the perfect opening session to get you prepared for the next three days.

This year’s program is designed to prepare you and give you an accurate sense of what is happening in Congress. We want to show Congress that the disability advocacy network is strong and vast. Visit www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org to get full program information and to register.

Get involved and get the facts!

Hosted by: The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)

Promotional Support Provided by: Sibling Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

House Rules for 114th Congress Set Up Attack on Social Security and SSDI

This week, the House of Representatives adopted its rules of procedure for the 114th Congress (H. Res. 5). Stunningly, buried in this usually dry, non-controversial measure was an attack on Social Security that will put at risk Congress’s ability to prevent a 20% cut in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016.

The provision, inserted by Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Tom Reed (R-NY) and approved by a vote of 234 to 168, sets up procedural hurdles to House consideration of a needed, routine replenishment of Social Security’s disability fund. Shockingly, these major changes were never considered in hearings or open to input from constituents. While these rules only affect the House – not the Senate – they set a dangerous tone for how the 114th Congress may deal with Social Security and SSDI.

Here are three facts about this week’s House action that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends need to know:

  1. Congress needs to act by 2016 to prevent 20% across-the-board cuts in SSDI benefits.

Congress from time to time needs to adjust Social Security’s finances to account for population and economic shifts. The need to replenish the DI fund in 2016 to account for current trends, such as an older workforce now in its disability-prone years, has been expected for several decades. Without Congressional action, in 2016 the DI fund’s reserves will be depleted, leaving only incoming payroll contributions to pay for benefits. As a result, unless Congress acts, SSDI beneficiaries will face benefit cuts of 20% at the end of 2016.

  1. “Reallocation” is the common-sense, traditional solution.

Over the last 5 decades, Congress has repeatedly, on a bipartisan basis, used a simple, common-sense solution to address shortfalls in either of Social Security’s two funds (the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance or OASI fund, and the Disability Insurance or DI fund). A temporary shift to direct more Social Security revenues to the DI fund – called “reallocation” — will extend the solvency of the DI fund for almost two decades. Congress has made similar shifts 11 times in the past, about equally increasing the percentage going into one fund or the other. Reallocation does not require any new taxes. Additionally, the solvency of the overall Social Security system stays the same, with the combined funds remaining fully solvent through 2033.

  1. The House action creates roadblocks to strengthening Social Security, include SSDI.

The House rules of procedure govern how the House operates. The provision adopted in the House rules for the 114th Congress bars the House from reallocating to the DI fund. Procedurally, the House can in the future vote to waive this requirement – meaning that a reallocation could move forward, but only if the rule is waived. But the insertion of this provision into the House rules will create serious roadblocks to reallocation – and to Congress’s ability to keep Social Security’s promise to the more than 165 million hardworking Americans who contribute to Social Security and the nearly 11 million Americans who currently receive SSDI.

Want to learn more? Here are a few articles on the House action, from:

New Congress: Opportunities for New Champions

The midterm elections are over and many wonder how they will impact the disability community in the 114th Congress. And with all of the 24/7 news coverage, it can be hard to know what really matters for us. Here is a quick synopsis to make it easier:

  • Republicans gained control of the Senate and further strengthened their majority in the House. However, they will need to work with Democrats to pass legislation which the President will sign for it to become law in the next two years.
  • Party majorities are really important, mostly because they determine control of the Congressional agenda and calendar and the Committees where most of the work gets done.
  • The three committees in the Senate that are most important to people with I/DD are the Appropriations Committee, the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Appropriations Committee determines funding for federal agencies and most discretionary programs. The Finance Committee handles funding and program details for Social Security, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. The HELP Committee handles most federal programs related to health, education, and employment.
  • The Committee chairpersons (from the majority party) determine a committee’s priorities based on their interests, sense of national needs, and political judgment.
  • Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), are expected to become the next chairmen of the Appropriations, Finance, and HELP Committees, respectively. However, chairmanships won’t be finalized until early 2015.

Every election provides an opportunity for The Arc to make new friends in Congress. In the coming weeks and months, we will be engaging our vast network in reaching out to their new Members of Congress as well as those who continue to represent them. There are new faces and new dynamics in Congress, but our work remains the same.

Disability is a bipartisan issue and The Arc is a non-partisan organization. Disability affects all Americans in one way or another, sooner or later. We remember that landmark disability legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) became law through the support of Republican and Democratic Members of Congress alike. The Arc’s grassroots and chapters will do what we have always done. We work hard to get to know our elected officials and what they care and know about. We let them know what we care and know about. Most importantly, we let them know why we care. We tell them about our children, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, neighbors, friends, etc. with I/DD. We let them know that we matter. We do this by paying attention to what they do and letting them know how we feel about it. We also do this by serving as a resource for them. If they try to do something that helps our community, we thank them.

The 114th Congress begins with the new year. We will need action at every level of The Arc to ensure that Members and staff are fully aware of the issues that are important to people with I/DD.

Autism CARES Is Law

The Arc celebrates the enactment of the “Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act of 2014.” This law reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2011 for five years and makes a number of improvements to it. President Obama signed the legislation into law on August 8, 2014.

Since its original enactment in 2006, the law has significantly advanced the science and practice in the disability field by increasing the number, scope, pace, and coordination of research, surveillance, public awareness, and professional training efforts. Among its many notable achievements are an increase in the proportion of infants screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an increase in the proportion of children diagnosed by the age of three, and continuing improvements to decrease the time between diagnosis and intervention.

“Thanks to this law, health professionals are increasingly better able to serve people with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Greater public awareness and professional education on screening, diagnosis, and appropriate interventions promise to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, The Arc’s CEO.

“The Arc commends the lead sponsors, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), for their leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation. We also greatly appreciate the improvements that they made to the law – a name change that uses more respectful language, a designated ASD position in the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the law’s implementation, increased representation of self advocates and family members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), and requiring a report on the needs of transitioning youth,” said Berns.

For more information on the accomplishments of the prior legislation see, “Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010-FY 2012)”.

One Step Closer to Erasing the R-word

This week marks a great victory for disability advocates across the country.  The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) announcement of its proposal to stop using the term “mental retardation” and start using “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments and other regulations, is a victory larger than it may seem to many.  This decision brings us one step closer to a world free of the R-word.

Just think, this victory comes just over two years after President Obama signed Rosa’s Law, which substituted the stigmatizing word with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor policy statutes.  Some might think two years is a long time, but the thousands of advocates like me who have spent decades working in the disability policy field know that change like this doesn’t come quickly or easily.

Today’s announcement is all the more remarkable because SSA takes this step voluntarily. Rosa’s Law did not specifically include Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, but SSA is making this change because it’s the right thing to do.

We know how powerful words are.  Words also represent you and your viewpoint, and we can all be happy that SSA is taking a step to change the words being used in their official documents to better promote the civil rights of individuals with I/DD.  The R-word isn’t just a word, it is a stigmatizing term that the disability community has been fighting against for years, and this week we are a step closer to banishing it from our government and our society.

But it’s not over yet – we need your help to keep the momentum going!

SSA will not be able to finalize this change until it goes through the rulemaking process required of all federal agencies.  SSA issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to stop using the R-word on Monday, January 28th.  The public has 30 days to comment – and SSA needs to hear from you!

Please visit the Federal eRulemaking portal at regulations.gov.  Use the Search function to find docket number SSA-2012-0066 and then submit comments in support of ending the R-word. Comments are due on February 27, 2013.

Join us at the 2013 Disability Policy Seminar

Disability Policy Seminar 2013Does what happens in Washington, D.C. really matter? Can you make a difference? You bet! Every day millions of Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are impacted by the public policy decisions – big and small — made by their representatives in Congress.

And each year, hundreds of advocates attend the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. to learn more about and discuss the hottest topics in disability public policy. We invite you to join us April 15-17 for an opportunity to advance the grassroots movement for people with I/DD and make sure your elected officials know what’s important to you.

Monday and Tuesday, April 15 and 16, are filled with informative in-depth sessions from disability policy experts and opportunities to network with others from your state. And, we’ll have a “newcomers” track with sessions designed for people who are new to federal public policy advocacy to answer questions and give you the background you need. Then the event culminates on Wednesday, April 17 with a breakfast on Capitol Hill before you personally meet with your elected representatives and make a case for their cause supported by information about the issues provided during the Seminar.

Register now and book your room at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington D.C. for a special early registration rate at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org and find out more details about the stimulating program on tap for this year’s event. But act soon – special rates on rooms ends March 12.

DPS Partners

Hosted by: The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)

Sponsored by: Autism Society and NADD, an association for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health needs