Cutting Social Security Benefits Can Backfire Horribly

Posted January 17, 2020 by Carlie Allen

In the early 1980s, the Ronald Reagan administration terminated benefits for thousands of disabled people who were supposedly loafing on Social Security Disability Insurance instead of getting a job. The cuts sparked a public outcry, state government protests, serious congressional pushback and court rulings restoring people’s benefits.

Now the Donald Trump administration is pursuing changes that disability advocates say could repeat those same mistakes. In a proposed regulation, the Social Security Administration said in November that to “maintain appropriate stewardship of the disability program” it wants to do more frequent reviews checking that program enrollees are still disabled.

The administration is also reportedly considering a separate rule that would tighten initial eligibility standards for disability benefits. Both moves are part of the president’s general crackdown on programs that benefit poor people.

More than 8 million Americans receive Social Security Disability Insurance, for which they must prove to the government that they suffer from a severe disability that won’t go away within a year. Even after they’ve been awarded benefits, from time to time most recipients have to prove that they’re still unable to work in order to continue receiving benefits. How often reviews happen depends on the severity of a person’s impairments.

The Trump administration wants to make those “continuing disability reviews” (CDR’s) more frequent, arguing that the current system fails to account for medical improvement among some recipients. And it said it would look particularly closely at disability claimants awarded benefits partly because their age and educational attainment made them less likely to be able to find work.

Increasing the number of disability reviews also triggered the Reagan-era debacle. As part of a long-running moral panic over supposedly undeserving Americans getting welfare, Congress in 1980 required the Social Security Administration to review nonpermanent disability claims every three years. Reagan loved to bash welfare, and his administration implemented the law with gusto. Instead of doing just 150,000 reviews each year, as had been done previously, the administration aimed for half a million.

It became a scandal almost immediately, as thousands discovered their benefits were being terminated.

From 1982 through 1984, the Reagan administration reviewed about 1.2 million cases and sent out 490,000 termination notices, according to the Congressional Research Service. Approximately 200,000 of those terminations were reversed on appeal.

Class action lawsuits revealed what a federal judge described as an illegal “covert policy” to revoke benefits from people who’d been granted enrollment in part because of mental impairments, rather than solely because of physical disabilities. Officials believed such people ought to be able to do unskilled work.

Amid the uproar, the Reagan administration declared a moratorium on continuing disability reviews in 1984, and that year Congress passed a law disallowing terminations without substantial improvement in whatever medical condition had led to the initial award of benefits.

The Trump proposal would result in 2.6 million more reviews over a decade, at a cost of $1.8 billion ― which the administration said would save $2.6 billion by terminating benefits for an unspecified number of SSDI and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries.

With its proposals to cut food benefits, the Trump administration has insisted that former recipients will be better off if they’re forced to go get jobs. But with the disability proposal, the administration admitted it “cannot currently quantify” how many might find work. Past research on incomes of former disability recipients paints a somewhat grim picture, with low earnings and high poverty rates.

The draft regulation would not affect initial eligibility for disability benefits, but would subject some claimants to review every two years if the administration believes they are “likely” to see medical improvement. The rule specifies that certain cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma, would be considered likely to improve, as well as speech and anxiety disorders.

Other claimants would be included in the “improvement likely” category if they had been awarded benefits not solely because of their disability, but also because of factors such as age, education and work experience that affect their ability to find new jobs.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing in the proposed regulations are similar mistakes made by SSA in the early 1980s,” Lowell Arye, who worked as a staffer on the House Select Committee on Aging in the 1980s, said in a formal comment on the Trump regulation. He said “the targeting of individuals” who won benefits partly because of vocational factors is similar to what the Reagan administration did when it targeted people with mental illness.

If the regulation is finalized ― which could happen later this year ― disability claimants would have far more recourse than they did in the 1980s, said Barbara Silverstone, director of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, largely because of the safeguards Congress enacted in 1984.

Full article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-disability-benefits_n_5e1e3301c5b650c621e71bbc?guccounter=2&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9ub3NzY3Iub3JnL2N1dHRpbmctc29jaWFsLXNlY3VyaXR5LWRpc2FiaWxpdHktYmVuZWZpdHMtY2FuLWJhY2tmaXJlLWhvcnJpYmx5Lw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAIFrxxAHTYhG3uC8fKMRmFuvSSIbZCDjqhalQqmKxW2p5feyjqIh8_99WLxT6qoLEGWFYWzaQOHsZLsiqZtxLo75ShfOXwYfXw3OUqwEx_9hbkEQ1iYfiAhVUcB-fkAG54VSgO5QDxZcbE3fy92xIRHdeGbnXhl6lp2SxAVcZZjH

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Housing Assistance for Disabled Individuals

Posted January 10, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

A variety of federal, state, and local housing programs can help you find and afford a place to live, modify an existing home for disabilities, or help you develop skills to live independently. Each program has its own eligibility rules and application process.

Rental Housing

Homeownership

Independent Living Skills

  • State and local independent living centers can help you develop skills to live on your own with a disability.
  • Contact your state to find out how its department of human services or disability office may be able to assist with modifications, housing counseling, locating rental housing, and independent living skills.

How do I complain?

You may require things like ramps, grab bars, or service animals. It is illegal for housing providers to deny someone housing because of a disability or refuse to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with a disability. Learn more about disability rights in housing and how to file a complaint if you feel that you’ve been a victim of housing discrimination.

If You’re About to Become Homeless

  • Make sure your state ID or driver’s license is current and available. Shelters and assistance programs may have strict ID requirements.
  • If possible, store your belongings. Shelters have limits on how much you may bring.
  • Arrange for your mail to be delivered somewhere or talk to your local post office. Many have special services for people who are homeless. You may be able to get a free P.O. box or receive general delivery service.
  • Pack a bag for yourself and each member of your family.
  • Keep important documents and needed medications with you.

Find Housing

  • Check for shelter and housing through your state. You can also check your state’s human or social services programs for housing assistance or use the map on the Homeless Shelter Directory to find a shelter near you. The types of facilities vary. Research the best options for:
    • Cost – Most shelters are free, but some may charge a small fee. Most facilities that provide residential drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs charge a fee. Many, however, are low cost, accept Medicaid, or operate on a sliding scale based on your income.
    • Length of stay – This can vary from a couple of weeks to several months.
    • Types of services – Some facilities just provide safe shelter for the night, while others are transitional. They provide both housing and support services. They may help you with substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, or job training.

Homeless Resources for Special Groups

These resources are geared toward specific audiences:

Veterans

  • Homeless Veteran Resources from the VA – Explore opportunities to return to employment and find safe housing, health care, and mental health services.
  • Call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838). You can find help 24 hours a day.

Youth

  • Call the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929).
  • Housing programs and street outreach – Find stable, safe housing, education help, survival aid, counseling, crisis intervention, and follow-up support.

People with Mental Illness

Other Types of Help if You’re Homeless

Visit Benefits.gov to find out if you’re eligible and how to apply for other types of help. This may include financial assistance, transportation, food, counseling, and more.

If you don’t have medical insurance, you can use HRSA health centers. They give checkups, treatment when you’re sick, pregnancy care, and immunizations for your children.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

See more here: https://www.usa.gov/housing-help-audiences

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

January is Blood Donor Month, Can You Help?

Posted January 3, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

According to the American Red Cross, winter is one of the most difficult times of year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs. That is because of, among other things, busy holiday schedules and bad weather often resulting in canceled blood drives. Furthermore, seasonal illnesses such as the flu force potential donors to forgo their blood donations.

This is just one of the reasons that National Blood Donor Month, which has taken place each January since 1970, is such an important observance. Donating blood saves many lives and improves health for many people. According to the World Health Organization, “blood is the most precious gift that anyone can give to another person — the gift of life. A decision to donate your blood can save a life, or even several if your blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma.”

Find a local blood drive: https://www.redcross.org/give-blood.html

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services LLC®