Legislative Update for Week Ending June 12, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 12, 2015

This week, the Social Security Administration (SSA) revealed that it has been overpaying almost half of all Disability Insurance (DI) enrollees, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain critical support.

SSA Reports Massive DI Overpayments

Early this week, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration released a 10-year study that found nearly $17 billion in overpayments to around 4 million enrollees in the Disability Insurance program. Approximately 45 percent of all disabled beneficiaries have been overpaid in the past decade, the report’s authors concluded.

Most of the overpayments – nearly 40 percent – went to those who began working or had a positive change in income. Another 24 percent of the overpayments went to those who had a medical improvement and no longer qualified. Around 7.5 percent of the overpayments went to those who became imprisoned, and 7.2 percent went to deceased beneficiaries. According to the report, the agency was able to recover approximately $8.1 billion in overpayments.

The report’s findings are significant because the DI program is currently in serious financial trouble. If Congress does nothing to address its funding issues, the trust fund will become insolvent next year, at the end of 2016. At that point, enrollees will face an across-the-board 20 percent cut in benefits.

In response to the OIG’s findings, Representative Sam Johnson (TX-3) – Chair of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee – said: “Overpayments are bad for everyone – they are bad for the beneficiary and they are bad for the taxpayer. With the disability program going broke next year, it is especially troubling that Social Security is failing to protect precious taxpayer dollars.”

TSCL agrees with Rep. Johnson, and we believe Congress must begin formulating a serious plan to fix the program’s finances. Recently, we announced our support for two pieces of legislation that we believe are long overdue. One bill (S. 499 / H.R. 918) would prevent beneficiaries from collecting both unemployment benefits and disability insurance benefits at the same time. The second bill (S. 1198 / H.R. 1936) would ensure that evidence from convicted felons and other criminals is excluded when determining whether an individual is eligible for disability benefits.

To fix the program, TSCL also supports an increase in Continuing Disability Reviews, which are conducted to determine whether an enrollee still qualifies for benefits, and an increase in the payroll tax cap, which currently sits at $118,500. We will continue to advocate for these and other long-term solutions that we believe would return the program to solvency responsibly.

For updates on our efforts, visit the Legislative News section of our website, or our new page on Facebook.

Key Bill Gains Cosponsor

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-4) – signed on to the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1391). The total is now up to sixty-two. If signed into law, H.R. 1391 would increase Social Security benefits by 2 percent, cut taxes for over 11 million seniors, increase the minimum benefit to 125 percent of the poverty line, and make cost-of-living adjustments more fair and accurate. It would also take measures to increase the solvency of the trust fund beyond the next seventy-five years, through the year 2100.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 1391 since it would strengthen the program without cutting benefits for seniors. We were pleased to see support grow for it this week.