June 26, 2018
The Honorable Bernard Sanders
332 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Sanders:
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I write to endorse your legislation, the “Social Security Administration Fairness Act.” The National Committee commends you for introducing this legislation, which guarantees regular and consistent funding for the administrative budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA). In addition, it eliminates the waiting period disabled Americans must serve before their monthly benefits and health care coverage can begin.
Since the inception of the Disability Insurance (DI) program in the mid 1950’s, workers who qualify for monthly disability benefits have been required to serve a “waiting period,” before their benefits could begin. Initially, the waiting period was six months in duration; currently it is five months.
The rationale offered at the time this provision was enacted was tied to the availability of employer-provided sick leave, which it was reasoned could be relied on for the first few months of an individual’s period of disability. While that may have made sense 60 years ago, when DI was first enacted, it has been rendered obsolete by changing employer benefit practices. Your legislation modernizes the DI program so that it reflects actual rather than historical employer compensation practices.
The second waiting period to which DI beneficiaries are subjected relates to coverage under Medicare. Since Medicare was first enacted in 1965, all disabled workers have been required to wait a full two years—24 months—after the start of their DI cash benefits before they could receive health care through Medicare. Other than as a cost-saving measure, it is difficult to understand the rationale or purpose for this waiting period, and we applaud your leadership in eliminating this harsh provision.
Your legislation also includes provisions that will strengthen substantially SSA’s ability to provide high quality service to America’s seniors. Part of your approach is to take SSA’s administrative expenditures off budget. We support this initiative and believe it is the most promising avenue for increasing SSA’s administrative budget.
This legislation would also set SSA’s administrative funding at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments. While it is possible to anticipate situations where a fixed 1.5 percent appropriation might yield more or less than optional funding for SSA, we believe the time has come to try an alternate approach. In light of the Congress’ long-standing failure to adequately fund this vitally important agency, we endorse this concept.
The National Committee supports the provisions included in your bill and is pleased to endorse the “Social Security Administration Fairness Act.” This legislation represents a bold step toward modernizing outdated provisions in the DI program and strengthening the overall administration of the program. We look forward to working with you to enact this important legislation.
President and CEO