Alexandria, VA: How would Social Security recipients fix the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program? The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) is providing recommendations to Congress this week taken from a national survey of close to 1,200 Americans age 60 and over. Participants overwhelmingly say that they won’t support benefit cuts or switching to a more slowly growing cost–of–living adjustment (COLA).
According to The Social Security Trustees, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund is expected to become fully insolvent by the end of next year. Without Congressional action, Social Security trustees estimate there won’t be enough tax revenues to pay full scheduled disability program benefits at the end of 2016. More than 10 million disabled beneficiaries and their dependents face cuts of about 19% in their monthly payments if nothing is done.
“One of the most difficult tasks facing Congress is overcoming a huge public credibility gap,” warns TSCL Chairman Ed Cates. The public overwhelmingly views Social Security as one combined Trust Fund, which provides retirement, survivors and disability benefits. “In reality there are two — one for retirement and survivors benefits and one for disability benefits — and they operate separately,” Cates notes.
Federal law prohibits the two Social Security trust funds from borrowing or transferring payroll taxes from one program to the other without Congressional action. While such action has been taken 11 times in the past to temporarily avert a Social Security funding shortfall, a TSCL poll conducted in July of last year found that less than 1 percent of participants say that shifting revenues from one trust fund to another would be the best way to fix the program.
Although some members of Congress have said they don’t know where the money would come from to fix Social Security without benefit cuts, TSCL surveys indicate that older Americans support the following approach:
- Reduce overpayments, fraud and abuse in the system — increase the frequency of continuing disability reviews. A recent audit found that the Social Security Administration had overpaid nearly half of the people receiving disability benefits over the past decade. Continuing disability reviews are conducted periodically to determine if disability recipients still remain eligible for benefits. According to the Social Security Advisory Board, every $1 spent on reviews returns $9 in savings to the program.
- Increase the payroll taxable maximum to cover all earnings. Currently high - income workers pay no Social Security taxes on earnings over $118,500. That means someone earning $500,000 stopped paying Social Security taxes at the end of March while middle and low - income earners continue to pay Social Security taxes on all their earnings, all year long. This one change alone would bolster both the disability and retirement program for decades to come.
- Improve work incentives and encourage disabled beneficiaries who improve to return to work. Current disability rules restrict what disabled beneficiaries can earn, which serves as a disincentive to those who are capable of re-entering the workforce. TSCL favors adopting rules that are consistent with those of the retirement and survivors program, which allows people to earn $1,310 per month before benefits are reduced.
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With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.
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