How the Administration’s Budget Proposal Affects SSDI and SSI
July 3rd, 2017 by Attorney John Colvin
At the end of May, the White House released the first version of its 2018 budget, and one of its proposals was to cut funding for Social Security Disability Insurance by $70 billion over the next 10 years. While the budget is likely to undergo several changes in the House and Senate, critics say this budget’s provisions as written will harm people with disabilities.
These are some of the federal budget provisions:
- Limit retroactive SSDI payments: Currently, SSDI applicants may receive retroactive benefits of up to 12 months, if their disability began one year before they applied for benefits. The federal budget aims to allow only six months of retroactive benefits.
- Add rules for SSDI and Supplemental Security Insurance applicants: The Social Security Administration would require SSDI and SSI applicants to “engage in job-seeking activities” before considering their application.
- Create a sliding scale for child SSI benefits: In a household where all children are receiving SSI benefits, each child currently receives the same amount. The budget proposes awarding the maximum benefit to only one child, and reducing SSI benefits to other children in the same household.
- Cut disability benefits for veterans: The budget would cut nearly $41 billion from a program called Individual Unemployability, a disability benefit for veterans. Currently, when a veteran’s disability makes employment impossible, but the Department of Veterans Affairs deems the veteran to be less than 100 percent disabled, the VA uses Individual Unemployability funds to cover the funding gap (for example, the VA pays someone based on a disability of 80 percent, and uses IU funds to cover the other 20 percent).
- Cut Medicaid funding: If both the American Health Care Act and federal budget remain unchanged, Medicaid funding would be cut by more than a trillion dollars in the next 10 years. Medicaid is what many people rely on to pay for prescription drugs, physical therapy, and home-based care.
- Eliminates some funding for special programs: The budget proposes ending the Community Services Block Grant, which states use to supplement Meals on Wheels programs. Meals on Wheels delivers food to elderly people who have extremely limited mobility. Elimination of the CSBG grant would not completely defund Meals on Wheels, but it would most likely result in a reduction of services for the elderly.
An Uncertain Future
For people who depend on SSDI, SSI, or Medicaid, the 2018 federal budget is cause for concern. Currently, more than 9 million workers and 2 million dependents receive SSDI. As of December 2015, about 8.3 million people were receiving SSI benefits, and 1.3 million were younger than age 18.
The SSA is already struggling with a shortage of funding and staffing levels, and that has caused long delays in the processing of disability benefits applications. If the 2018 federal budget makes significant changes in the rules for disability determination and payments, it’s likely that processing times will be even longer than they are now.