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House setting stage for battle over SSDI

On the first day of the new Congress, the House of Representatives enacted the type of rules change that often flies under the radar in the nation’s capital. While the obscure procedural change didn’t grab headlines, its passage signaled a looming fight over Social Security Disability funding.

As you know, the SSDI trust fund will be exhausted next year. If no new funding is appropriated, benefits to disabled workers, their children and their spouses would have to be slashed by about 20 percent. 

That means a disabled Denver resident currently receiving the maximum SSDI payment ($2,663 per month) would see benefits reduced by more than $530 every month.

The House rules change prevents the chamber from doing in the future what it has done in the past to fix funding shortfalls: shift Social Security retirement funds to cover the gap. Now the House has said that can no longer be done unless it is tied to “changes that stabilize the overall Social Security Trust Fund (by cutting benefits, raising taxes, or both),” according to Forbes.

Currently, there are 9 million disabled American workers receiving benefits, as well as 2 million of their children.

SSDI advocates have long argued that current funding shortfalls could easily be fixed, as they have been in the past, with a minor shifting of funds from the retirement trust to the disability trust. That option appears to be off the table, at least for now, unless the shift is part of a larger change to SSDI.

Forbes makes the point that “SSDI largely benefits older workers,” with a third of recipients at least 60 years old.

With U.S. demographics changing – the nation is getting older because the Baby Boom generation is hitting retirement age – the SSDI safety net is critical to older workers who are statistically more likely to become disabled as they near age 65.

For many people who find that injury or illness prevents them from working, SSDI is a crucial benefit they have been paying for their entire working lives. That’s why if their benefits claim is denied, they fight in an appeal with an attorney experienced in helping people get the benefits they need and deserve.

Source: Forbes, "The Coming Congressional War Over Social Security Disability," Howard Gleckman, Jan. 7, 2015

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