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.
Washington, DC – In an historic change for people with intellectual disabilities (ID), the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced its intent to stop using the phrase “mental retardation” and start using “intellectual disability” in its official Listing of Impairments.
This change, which The Arc and many other organizations advocated for, comes a little over two years after President Barack Obama signed Rosa’s Law. In 2010, The Arc was very involved in efforts to end the use of the “r-word” and worked to enact 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. While the legislation did not cover programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it was an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation and efforts that will transform these outdated terms in all federal laws. The Social Security Administration’s actions are a welcome result of the success of Rosa’s Law.
“Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights. This is an important moment for people with disabilities because Social Security is a lifeline to so many – it allows people with ID to live in their communities and be as independent as possible. And now, the language the agency uses will reflect the respect people with ID deserve,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
The proposed regulation published today has a 30 day comment period, and we encourage people to submit comments in support of the proposed regulation online by February 27, 2013.
Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue shared with The Arc the following note regarding a welcome change in terminology in the Administration’s Listing of Impairments.
I am pleased to inform you that today we put on public display at the Office of the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to replace the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in our Listing of Impairments and in other appropriate sections of our rules.
Many of you have rightfully asserted that the term “mental retardation” has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it. Partly in response to these concerns, Congress passed Rosa’s Law, which changed references to “mental retardation” in specified Federal laws to “intellectual disability,” and references to “a mentally retarded individual” to “an individual with an intellectual disability.” While Rosa’s Law did not require us to make any changes to our existing regulations, we are doing so in the spirit of the law and to join other agencies and organizations who are adopting the term “intellectual disability.”
Beginning Monday, you can view the NPRM online at www.regulations.gov.
Thank you for your continued support and cooperation with the Social Security Administration as we work to serve the needs of the American public.
Michael J. Astrue
Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in light of reports of new threats to Social Security in negotiations on a budget deal to avert the fiscal cliff. On the negotiating table is a change to the way benefits are calculated known as the “chained Consumer Price Index (CPI).”
“We are very disappointed by the newest proposals in Washington, DC that would result in a chained CPI. The chained CPI would cut all Social Security benefits, including for individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Social Security is an essential lifeline for individuals with disabilities, and the chained CPI would cut their benefits and unnecessarily damage their quality of life. Our nation cannot continue balancing the budget on the backs of individuals with disabilities and must preserve vital supports including Social Security, SSI, Medicaid, and Medicare,” said Marty Ford, Director, Public Policy Office, The Arc.
The chained CPI reduces the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries receive in most years, resulting in people getting smaller benefit increases than they otherwise would under the current calculation.
Cuts from the chained CPI compound and get bigger every year. For the average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiary, the chained CPI would mean a benefit cut of about $347 per year after 10 years, $720 per year after 20 years, and $1,084 per year after 30 years. After 30 years, the cut is roughly 1 months’ worth of benefits for the average SSDI beneficiary. For SSI, the chained CPI not only lowers the annual COLA but also reduces the initial SSI benefit, which is calculated using a federal benefit rate that adjusts annually for inflation.
Washington, DC – Today, The Arc’s Marty Ford, will be honored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for her years of leadership and commitment to SSA’s disability programs. Ford serves as the Director of The Arc’s Public Policy office, driving the organization’s public policy agenda.
In her current role, she leads the five person team representing The Arc on Capitol Hill and before federal agencies. With nearly 30 years of experience, Ford is a recognized leader in federal public policy affecting people with disabilities, particularly the Social Security disability system, long term services and supports, and Medicaid, and has testified numerous times before Congress. She served three years as Chairperson of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a coalition of over 110 national organizations, and continues as its Immediate Past Chairperson. She also serves on the Boards of Directors of the National Academy of Social Insurance and Advance CLASS.
The award will be presented by Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, on Capitol Hill on Thursday, December 6. During the event, Commissioner Astrue will also announce the expansion of the list of conditions that qualify under SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program. The Compassionate Allowances program is designed to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s strict standards for disability benefits. Since its inception, the initiative has helped ensure that Americans with the most severe disabilities receive their benefit decision within days instead of months or years.
“I’m honored to be receiving this award, and I want to thank Commissioner Astrue for his years of service at the Social Security Administration and his efforts to improve the agency’s services to people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As he wraps up his term, the expansion of the Compassionate Allowances program will be an important part of his legacy,” said Ford.
Today the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase for 2013. This modest increase will help preserve the buying power of Social Security benefits for nearly 62 million Americans, including many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who receive benefits under the Social Security retirement, survivors’, and disability systems.
According to SSA, the average monthly retirement benefit will increase by $21, from $1,240 in 2012 to $1,261 in 2013. The average monthly benefit for a “disabled worker” will increase by $19, from $1,113 in 2012 to $1,132 in 2013.
Higher Medicare premiums will likely offset some of this increase. Changes in Medicare premiums will be announced later this year at Medicare.gov.
The cost-of-living increase will affect many parts of the Social Security system, including important thresholds under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, including:
- Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level – The SGA for SSDI and SSI will increase from $1,010 per month to $1,040 per month for non-blind beneficiaries, and from $1,690 per month to $1,740 per month for blind beneficiaries.
- Trial Work Period (TWP) – The TWP for SSDI will increase from $720 per month to $750 per month.
- SSI Federal Payment Standard – The SSI federal payment standard will increase for an individual from $698 per month to $710 per month, and for a couple from $1,048 per month to $1,066 per month.
- SSI Student Exclusion – The SSI student exclusion monthly limit will increase from $1,700 to $1,730, and the SSI student exclusion annual limit will increase from $6,840 to $6,960.
Annual cost-of-living adjustments are a vital part of ensuring that Social Security beneficiaries do not see their buying power eroded by inflation. SSDI and SSI benefits are modest, averaging only about $1,111 per month for SSDI beneficiaries in the “disabled worker” category and $520 per month for SSI beneficiaries.
The Arc strongly supports ensuring adequate benefit levels. We recently joined 95 other organizations to send a letter to Congressional leaders to oppose a proposal to reduce these much-needed annual cost-of living increases. Subscribe to The Arc’s Capitol Insider for updates to learn how you can help make sure that Social Security and other vital programs are there for people with I/DD.
“It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, on signing the Social Security Act.
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Social Security Act, a law that makes a world of difference to millions of individuals with disabilities each day. While many see Social Security in dollars and cents we at The Arc know better. We know that Social Security provides a safety net for individuals with I/DD and their families. Today, our Social Security system includes retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. It’s more than just numbers, it’s people’s lives. But if you want to see the numbers that matter, here is a breakdown of what Social Security is doing for individuals with disabilities:
Over 11 million people with disabilities, their spouses, and children receive Social Security benefits. This includes:
- Nearly 8 million disabled workers (this is the term used in the Social Security Act). To qualify they must have a severe disability that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death.
- Nearly 1.8 million children of disabled workers.
- Over 930,000 disabled adult children. These individuals have a severe disability that began before age 22. They qualify when a parent becomes disabled, retires, or dies, and receive benefits from different parts of Social Security depending on their parent’s status. Many people with I/DD receive benefits under this category.
- Nearly 240,000 disabled widow(er)s.
Social Security benefits are modest, averaging about $1,100 to $1,200 per month, but these benefits go a long way in reducing poverty among beneficiaries with disabilities and their families. More than half of disability insurance beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least 75 percent of their income. The vast majority of them receive 90 percent or more of their income from these benefits. For families with a disabled worker, Social Security insurance provides about half of their income.
It’s also important to keep in mind that beneficiaries with disabilities are part of the larger Social Security system. Changes to the Social Security system will affect people with disabilities as much as anyone else.
The Arc strongly supports protecting and expanding the effectiveness of our Social Security system. Please join us in making sure this vital protection is there for people with I/DD and their families! For more information about Social Security, or to apply for benefits, visit http://www.ssa.gov.
The Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, started an official “countdown clock” marking less than one year until the March 1, 2013 deadline when all federal benefit recipients must receive their Social Security and other federal benefit payments electronically.
The move will help taxpayers save $1 billion over 10 years and will greatly decrease the risk of identity and check theft faced by recipients of mailed benefits. Currently, about 90 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are being made electronically. The remaining 10 percent have less than a year left to switch over before electronic benefits become mandatory.
This will impact many of the millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are eligible for and rely on these benefits, their families and those who act as trustees for federal benefit payments. . However, the Treasury Department has attempted to make it easy to set up electronic payments through its “Go Direct” campaign. Free financial education materials are available along with a “Go Direct Money Matters” page at www.godirect.org which offers not only information about how to receive electronic payments, but tips for retirement planning, preventing theft and more. Check it out and mark your calendar for March 1, 2013 if you or someone you care about receives federal benefit checks by mail.
Washington, DC – As the nation’s largest organization working on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), The Arc’s CEO Peter V. Berns released the following statement on today’s announcement that Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have not reached a deal to reduce the nation’s deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
“Throughout the Committee’s process, The Arc advocated for protecting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security because the budget cannot be balanced on the backs of people with disabilities. It is disappointing that the Committee could not come to an agreement that would have protected these critical programs while ensuring significant revenues were part of the solution. Unfortunately, no deal at the moment leaves lots of unknowns for the rest of the programs on which people with disabilities rely on to live independent lives.
“The Arc believes we must strengthen the economy while protecting the lifelines of people with disabilities, and to honor that commitment, bring in sufficient revenues to provide necessary services. We appreciate Members of Congress who stood their ground and opposed deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
“We recognize that this was a missed opportunity, when Members of Congress could have worked across party lines and found a solution to a deficit and revenue problem facing us all – young and old, people with disabilities and without, wealthy and poor. It will take a true bipartisan effort to ensure a secure future for people with disabilities, the elderly, and low income people. Individuals with disabilities, their families, and the professionals who support them will continue to monitor the budget process and advocate for their lifeline.”