A number of government benefits are means tested, meaning the eligibility for that program may be tied to how much money an individual or a family earns. Some programs, like the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, provide benefits that are specifically tied, by definition, to an individual's inability to work due to a disability. SSDI is intended to supplement what would be that individual's income.
To an uninformed outsider's perspective, it may seem like people who currently receive benefits like SSDI are lazy or are just not trying hard enough to work. It's ignorant suppositions like this that seem to be informing the Social Security Administration's latest attack on the benefits that many people with disabilities and their families depend on to survive.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced back in November a notice of proposed rulemaking
to change the way that disability reviews are conducted for the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) and the Social Security Disability Insurance program. It targets, among others, those seeking benefits for chronic conditions that flare unpredictably, like Crohn's disease or irritable bowel disease. It would also include children, individuals with mental illnesses and people with eating disorders, leukemia and HIV.
The changes could affect millions of people and households and make it significantly more difficult for those who currently have benefits, over 10 million people
, to maintain them. The agency has a comment period that has been extended to January 31.
SSA is proposing creating a new category under its existing Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) system, which is designed to ensure that people who receive benefits need those benefits due to a disability that affects their ability to work. CDRs are typically handled via a set of forms that need to be mailed in or a full medical review. A review requires significant documentation as well as a physical exam by doctors contracting with SSA to determine if a person's disability has in fact improved.
The frequency with which a beneficiary is reviewed can vary depending on the severity of the person's condition and the likelihood that an individual would be able to work with said diagnosis.
There are three categories that are used
: "medical improvement expected" (varies between once every six months and once every 18 months), "medical improvement possible" (once every three years) and "medical improvement not expected" (once every seven years.)
But the proposed rule introduces a new category, which would be called "medical improvement likely," and would be subject to review every two years.
The category will include about 4.4 million who are already in the Social Security system, as outlined in the proposed rule
would also include those between 50-65 who live with a combination of different disabilities and chronic illnesses that make it extremely difficult to work, and people with targeted disease diagnoses, such as cancer survivors and transplant recipients.
Each of the conditions listed can vary in terms of their severity. For every story of someone "overcoming" their illness or disability, there are numerous stories of people who must live with lifelong symptoms and side effects of treatments that could make it significantly difficult to maintain consistent employment.
What this proposed change would do is continue to punish the disability community and people in poverty.