Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Return to Work Act Affects SSDI Benefits

New legislation is has been drafted and introduced in the Senate and House that could have a serious impact on beneficiaries of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In what has been framed as an effort to help people with disabilities rejoin the workforce, the Return to Work Act requires that new beneficiaries be classified with regard to expectation of improvement, FRN reports. The bill, if passed, would make it more difficult for SSDI beneficiaries to maintain their monthly subsistence payments for several years or the remainder of one’s life.

 The legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Mike Lee (R-UT), according to the article. In the House of Representatives, a similar bill was introduced by Rep. French Hill (R-AR). The Return to Work Act is still in its infancy, but from what has been stated thus far, new beneficiaries would be broken up into four groups, including:
  • Medical Improvement Expected
  • Medical Improvement Likely
  • Medical Improvement Possible
  • Medical Improvement Not Expected
“Social Security Disability Insurance is supposed to be a safety net for people with disabilities,” Sen. Marco Rubio. “However, rampant abuse, lax enforcement and insufficient accountability have enabled this program to grow unchecked and prevented many people from going back to work. The health of our national economy and strength of our communities depend on able-bodied Americans earning paychecks. This legislation represents a long overdue reform that takes care of working Americans and saves our social safety net for the truly disabled.”

In defense of their bill, the Senators cite research which showed that the number of SSDI beneficiaries rose from 1.4 million in 1970 to nearly 9 million today, according to the article. Furthermore, the cost of the program has risen from $20 billion to $137 billion during the same time period. Senator Cotton has stated that only one-half of one percent of SSDI recipients return to work and discontinue their coverage, but the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) data (current through 2016), indicate that last year 8.81 percent of SSDI recipients were removed from SSI rolls in 2016. That is 830,044 out of a total 8,808,736 beneficiaries.

If the bill is passed and new beneficiaries are broken up into subjective categories, it will work something like the following.
  • Improvement is Expected: SSDI benefits would automatically terminate after two years.
  • Improvement is Likely: SSDI benefits would terminate after five years.
  • Improvement Possible: no automatic cutoff.
  • Improvement Not Expected: no automatic cutoff.
All beneficiaries whose support is terminated will be allowed to reapply and show why they still need their benefits. In a completely unrelated effort, Rep. Joyce Beatty, an Ohio Democrat, introduced a bill with a similar moniker, the Return to Work Awareness Act of 2017, NPQ reports. If passed, the legislation would engage the U.S. Department of Labor in efforts to “assist survivors of stroke and such other debilitating health occurrences in returning to work.”

If you live in Southern California and are experiencing problems with an SSDI or SSI application, please contact Driscoll Law Corporation for a free consultation.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2017

ALS Disability Insurance Access Act
Last summer we covered an important piece of legislation that would have had a life-saving implications for people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). If passed, the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act would have put an end to the 5-month waiting period ALS patients had to endure before receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The way it works, at the moment, ALS patients who meet the requirements for SSDI must wait five months before they can receive both SSDI and Medicare benefits. Unfortunately, the proposal was never completed, but please do not despair for all is not lost.

A group of lawmakers from both sides of the political landscape have voiced their support for a new bill that addresses the subject. The ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2017 was introduced in both houses of Congress, H.R.1171 and S.379 respectively, ALS News Today reports. The proposal has the full support of the ALS Association and if passed, would mean patients could immediately start receiving benefits.

“This legislation is especially important for people with ALS, for whom five months can mean the difference between life and death,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association, in a press release. “Nearly half of those living with ALS will die within 16 months of diagnosis, so it’s critical that they receive the benefits they deserve and have paid for as quickly as possible.”

The bill was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced the bill in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, a companion bill was introduced by Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.). What’s more, five California Democratic congressmen are co-sponsoring H.R. 1171 and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

“Given the prognosis for those diagnosed with ALS, it defies common sense and decency to require these same individuals to wait for benefits they have paid for and most importantly deserve,” Rep. King said. “I am proud to stand with the ALS community in support of this bipartisan bill.”

At Driscoll Law Corporation we would like to express our full support for the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2017. With any life threatening, incurable disorder, everything that can be done to ensure the best quality of life for ALS patients, should be done. We will continue to follow the progress of this vital legislation.