Disability rules: Proposed change to Social Security plan has high cost

Chipping away at the safety net for the poor and sick isn’t the way for the government to save money.

Proposed changes to the Social Security Disability system would do that and duplicate safeguards already in place to remove people who no longer need help from the rolls.

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The proposed new rules by the Social Security Administration should be ditched.

To save money, the federal government would spend an estimated $1.8 billion over 10 years by having millions of cases reviewed more often. That move might save $2.6 billion over the same period, but advocates say it targets largely poorly educated people, many coping with housing troubles and often with intellectual or physical difficulties.

It’s not easy to obtain Social Security Disability payments in the first place, with only four of 10 applicants approved for benefits. The complicated application process typically takes a few years. The average monthly payment barely keeps recipients above the poverty line. For most, it’s the only income they have.

A review process is already in place; it’s called a continuing disability review. Such reviews occur every three years in most cases, and they are saving money. The most recent report by the Social Security Administration touts $14.3 billion in savings on benefit payments.

That’s apparently not enough for the government.

The proposed change would schedule many reviews every two years.

Only a bureaucratic mind could dream up a scheme such as the new rule would impose.

First, a new category of disability is created into which hundreds of thousands of people will find themselves dumped.

The new category will be called Medical Improvement Likely, because the existing three categories aren’t sufficient, according to the proposal.

The new rule will mean any poor soul put into the new category will have more frequent claim reviews. Theoretically the government will catch improvement in the claimant’s health more quickly than in the current review system.

Reviews require the person getting disability payments to file lots of paperwork and claimants will need to get to the hearings. More frequent reviews will make it tougher on claimants. Some might just give up or not be able to do the paperwork. That’s an easy way to knock people off the rolls and save a bit of money.

That’s not improving the process. It’s not assuring the solvency of Social Security. It is a cruel way to hit some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Advocates for the disabled say the new rule would hit older and sicker beneficiaries disproportionately.

Many of those beneficiaries face problems like intellectual limitations, housing issues and limited education.

By cutting beneficiaries off from their main source of income, any savings will likely be lost because those individuals will need services and care with no way to pay for it. Families and communities will suffer the effects of any government savings.

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Hitting the weakest members of society isn’t the right way to cut the budget.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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