As part of NOSSCR’s spring 2017 conference in Washington, DC, disability lawyer Iván Ramos met with Congressman John Larson of Connecticut’s First Congressional District to discuss legislative issues pertaining SSI and SSDI. During their meeting at Capitol Hill, Larson reiterated his strong commitment to protecting and improving our Social Security Programs. His fierce stance in support of disability beneficiaries, was evidenced by the fact that he took time to sit down and speak with Iván during one of the busiest weeks in Washington-- they met on the same day as the Comey hearings and while many important votes were taking place on the house floor!
Currently, Congressman Larson sits on the influential House Ways and Means Committee and is the top Democrat in the Social Security Subcommittee. He is a crucial ally in NOSSCR’s fight to protect Social Security Disability and defeat Trump’s plans to significantly reduce disability benefits.
Iván Ramos and Congressman Larson discussed the urgency of protecting and improving the Social Security system in this critical time when the Trump administration has proposed massive cuts in benefits. In his Fiscal Year 2018 budget request, Trump proposes 72 billion dollars in Social Security cuts over the next 10 years. This proposal breaks Trump’s repeated campaign promise not to “cut Social Security”. Some of these proposed cuts include:
- Reducing SSDI retroactive payments to six months before the protected filing date. Currently, SSDI retroactive payments cover recipients for twelve months prior to the filing date. This will take an estimated $9.9 billion over the next ten years from people with disabilities.
- Reducing SSDI benefits when an individual attempts to work, is laid off, and then receives unemployment benefits. This disincentives people with disabilities from trying to work.
- Establishing a one-year probationary period for new Administrative Law Judges in Social Security, which could interfere with their abilities to make independent decisions in granting benefits.
- Limiting SSI payments for individuals living with other SSI recipients. This would interfere with families’ choices about living arrangements, especially when persons with disabilities live with family members who can support them. It would also add complexity to the SSI program (increasing overpayments) and increase poverty.
Larson also expressed his commitment to improving the administrative funding needed to ensure that people are able to navigate the Social Security system and receive the necessary resources from the agency. Currently, the Social Security Administration lacks the appropriate technology and staffing to provide adequate services. Data provided by the Social Security Administration and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that:
“The average caller to Social Security’s national 800 number waited over 13 minutes to be answered, and it took 110 days for an initial application for disability benefits to be processed. There are now 1.1 million people waiting for Social Security Administrative Law Judge hearings, and the wait time for the hearings is over a year in 167 of the nation’s 169 hearing offices, with the average over 600 days. The consequences of such long waits can be dire: approximately 8,000 people died last year while awaiting a disability benefits hearing.”
During their meeting, Iván Ramos and Congressman Larson also discussed solutions to current and impending issues within the Social Security system. Larson is the co-author of a bill called Social Security 2100, a set of reforms to ensure that Social Security is sustainable and effective now, and is available for future generations. The plan which is co-authored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) provides:
- Increasing benefits
- Protecting low income workers from retiring into poverty
- Cutting taxes on benefits to low and middle class SSI and SSDI recipients
- Requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rate into Social Security as everyone else by lifting the Social Security Cap
- More information can be found on Congressman Larson’s website: https://larson.house.gov/social-security-2100
Ramos Law thanks Congressman Larson, along with the great staffers from Senator Richard Blumenthal’s and Chris Murphy’s offices who set aside to time last Thursday to talk to Iván.