By Mary Johnson, editor
President Trump’s budget includes $64 billion in cuts from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program over the next 10 years despite the President’s repeated campaign promises that he would not touch Social Security benefits. Trump’s budget Director Mick Mulvaney justified the cuts, arguing that SSDI was not technically part of “mainline” Social Security, and therefore the President was not breaking a campaign promise. Said Mulvaney, “If you ask 999 people out of a thousand, they’d tell you Social Security disability is not part of Social Security.”
Wrong answer, Mr. Mulvaney.
Without a doubt the public is often justifiably confused about the convoluted workings of federal benefit programs. But the one thing we are all aware of is the amount of money we pay into Social Security, which includes taxes for both retirement AND disability insurance benefits. Social Security disability benefits are earned — same as retirement benefits. Of the 12.4% payroll tax paid by workers and employers, the retirement trust fund gets 10.6% and the disability insurance trust fund gets 1.8% of the revenues collected.
Mulvaney explained that the goal of the proposed cut to SSDI is to “test new approaches to increase labor force participation,” which suggests that large numbers of ineligible people are abusing the system and need to go back to work. While Social Security disability has well-publicized problems with fraud and abuse, it’s important to note that eligibility standards for Social Security disability mean that a person must have a condition so severe that he or she is not able to work. Thus, someone who truly meets the eligibility standards for disability, is not likely to ever re-enter the workforce.
To even meet the statutory test of disability, the disabled worker must be unable to work or engage in any “substantial gainful activity.” To qualify, disabled workers must have worked in the past, and be unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last more than one year or result in death.
A sixty-four billion dollar budget cut does nothing to prevent fraud to begin with, especially when investigators and stronger oversight through the judicial system during the determination process are critically needed. TSCL believes that funding should be appropriated for the Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Program. The CDI program continues to be one of the Social Security Administration’s most successful initiatives to prevent fraud, returning an estimated $17 for every $1 spent in fighting fraud.
CDI investigates disability claims that State disability examiners believe are suspicious. The program’s primary mission is to obtain evidence that can resolve questions of fraud before benefits are ever paid. These investigative units also provide reports to examiners during continuing disability reviews that can be used to end benefits of people who are ineligible for benefits and gaming the system. Let’s tell Congress to say NO to Social Security disability insurance cuts — and ask lawmakers to strengthen our successful anti-fraud prevention programs.
Do you suspect someone of committing disability fraud? Learn how to report fraud online at the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General or call or write the Fraud Hotline.
Social Security Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17785
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
Sources: “The Cuts To A Major Disability Program In Trump’s Budget,” Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News, June 1, 2017.