Social Security is not only a retirement program. It is an insurance program to protect against poverty in retirement or as a result of disability or death of a family wage earner. The Social Security Act provides Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance under Title II of the Act, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, and related health insurance under Medicare (Title XVIII) and Medicaid (Title XIX). These beneficiaries include workers with disabilities and people with disabilities who are dependents and survivors of disabled workers, retirees, and deceased workers. SSI also plays an important role for children with disabilities, working age people with disabilities, and older adults. It offers an extremely modest benefit and comes with strict means-tested requirements.
Many depend solely on their Social Security or SSI benefits and related health coverage for their basic survival. Discussions about Social Security reform, however, usually focus on retirement benefits and seldom address potential effects on people with disabilities in the retirement, disability, and survivors programs.
We support efforts to ensure the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds over a 75-year time frame while preserving the program’s basic structure and strengthening its insurance functions. We do not support efforts to create private accounts out of the Social Security Trust Funds. The impact of the resulting market risk, benefit cuts, or additional trillions of dollars in deficits would be devastating for people with disabilities.
In recent years, inadequate funding of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) operating budget has eroded the agency’s services across the board. People with disabilities have experienced long delays and decreased service in accessing critical Social Security benefits. Processing times for disability claims have grown, especially at the hearing level where delays have reached historic and intolerable levels. Behind the numbers are individuals with disabilities whose lives have unraveled while waiting for decisions – families are torn apart; homes are lost; medical conditions deteriorate; once stable financial security crumbles; and many individuals die.