On the first day of the new session, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it more difficult to shore up the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund.
Under the most recent projections, the SSDI trust fund is set to run out in 2016, meaning that the Social Security Administration will have to reduce benefits unless it receives additional funding through taxes or some other source.
Traditionally, Congress has shifted money back and forth between its much larger Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance program, which provides benefits to most Americans over age 65, and SSDI, which has 11 million members, to compensate for shortfalls in each program. Such reallocations have been done 11 times since the 1950s.
Under the new bill, which passed Jan. 7 by a vote of 234-172, Congress would be barred from transferring money from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program to the SSDI program, which could result in an estimated 20 percent reduction in benefits for SSDI recipients, according to the Associated Press. The measure was attached to a broader rules package, meant to establish parliamentary rules for the new session.
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees Social Security, said the provision is necessary to protect the solvency of the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program.
“I’m pleased to start the year off strong with this important and common-sense measure,” Rep. Johnson said in a statement. “Americans rely on the promise that Social Security will be there for them, especially individuals with disabilities, and my measure seeks to protect that promise.”
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the nation’s largest coalition of disability advocacy groups, argues the provision is unnecessary.
In a letter sent January 15 to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the CCD called on Congressional leaders to continue reallocating funds between the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program’s and SSDI’s trust funds to keep both programs fully funded.
Based on the most recent projections, there is enough funding to keep both programs solvent through 2033.
“Reallocation — without accompanying cuts to Social Security coverage, eligibility, or benefits — is the common-sense, responsible solution that Congress should enact promptly,” the CCD stated in the letter. “Unfortunately, the provision in the House rules creates roadblocks to reallocation and to keeping Social Security’s promise to the more than 165 million Americans who currently contribute to the system and the nearly 11 million Americans who currently receive SSDI benefits.