proposed trump administration rule would place new burden on Social Security Disability (SSDI) beneficiaries

Advocates for seniors and the disabled – including the National Committee – are increasingly concerned about a proposed Trump administration rule regarding Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  These are periodic reviews conducted by the Social Security Administration to determine beneficiaries’ ongoing eligibility for SSDI benefits.  The proposed rule would add a new level of CDR, which could result not only in unnecessary red tape and stress for beneficiaries, but also a loss of benefits for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Disabled claimants’ cases currently are subject to periodic review depending on their assessed prognoses:

Medical Improvement Expected:  Cases are reviewed every 6 months to 2 years

Medical Improvement Possible:  Cases are reviewed at least every 3 years

Medical Improvement Not Expected:  Cases are reviewed at least every 7 years.

The new rule imposes an additional layer of review:  Medical Improvement Likely.  Beneficiaries suffering from disabilities as diverse as leukemia and severe anxiety would be subject to these new reviews.  Claimants who fall into this new category would be reviewed at least every 2 years – creating a new hurdle to continue receiving benefits.  This is neither necessary or fair.

SSDI beneficiaries are among America’s most health insecure and financially challenged citizens. Beneficiaries undergoing CDRs have at least one severe disability.  These claimants typically are older, poorer, less educated, and housing insecure.  They are at least three times as likely to die within a year as other people the same age. The last thing they need is to be compelled to provide more CDR paperwork and medical records, which can also be a financial burden.

“Advocates for recipients say that the ‘medical improvement likely’ category appears to make no sense. In general, medical conditions deteriorate as people age, especially those who have limited resources. Compelling (these) recipients through a review every two years will make it even more difficult for them to comply with the review process, putting their benefit eligibility in jeopardy.” – Forbes, 12/17/19

As Rep. John Larson (D-CT) pointed out this week, the proposed rule particularly would impact the nation’s disabled veterans:

“Increasing the frequency of the reviews would force beneficiaries to go through a complex process that they may not be able to navigate, resulting in them losing their disability benefits even though nothing medically has changed. This would be devastating to impacted veterans, who rely on the Social Security disability benefits they have earned to put food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads.” – Rep. John Larson, 1/09/20

So far, there is no evidence that the administration proposal would improve the integrity of SSDI or help beneficiaries. In fact, the National Committee estimates that the new system would produce negligible cost savings because of the resources necessary to conduct additional Continuing Disability Reviews.

It’s reasonable to conclude, then, that the proposed rule is part of the Trump administration’s apparent indifference – or outright disdain – toward Americans on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.  The proposed rule is likely driven by the same ideological agenda behind the administration’s efforts to strip Americans of affordable, quality health coverage, to cut federal programs that feed the poor and elderly, and to impose new requirements that could force millions from Medicaid rolls. A compassionate cost/benefit analysis does not justify the imposition of fresh burdens on citizens with disabilities.  Advocates and beneficiaries rightly oppose this rule and will continue to exert pressure against its enactment.