Advocates push back against bills targeting concurrent SSDI, unemployment insurance beneficiaries

Photo close up of social security cards and cash
Disincentives to Work

Multiple bills have been introduced this Congressional session that seek to reduce benefits for people receiving both Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Insurance benefits at the same time.

SSDI is available for people with substantial limitations on their ability to work due to their disabilities. To encourage people receiving SSDI to continue to pursue employment opportunities, beneficiaries can earn up to $1,090 per month, while maintaining eligibility.

Unemployment insurance is available to people who lose employment due to no fault of their own. Fewer than one percent of SSDI beneficiaries simultaneously receive UI benefits, according to the Government Accountability Office in a 2012 report.

Under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act of 2015, people receiving UI benefits would be deemed to have participated in “substantial gainful activity” and thus be ineligible for SSDI.

The Reducing Overlapping Payments Act of 2015 would amend the Social Security Act to bar anyone from receiving benefits for any month they receive UI benefits.
In a letter sent to five Senators in from March, the  Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, and the Coalition on Human Needs urged the senators to drop the proposal. “These extremely modest benefits can be a lifeline to workers with disabilities who receive them, and their families – and as permitted by law are neither ‘double-dipping’ nor improper payments,” the letter states. “We are deeply concerned by any prospect of worsening the economic security of workers with disabilities and their families.”

In addition, the advocates argued the bill would have the unintended effect of imposing new employment barriers to people with disabilities.

“Proposed cuts to concurrent benefits create new disincentives to work for SSDI beneficiaries, by penalizing individuals who qualify for both SSDI and UI because they have attempted to work, as encouraged by law,” the letter states. “The creation of a new work disincentive runs directly counter to our shared goal of expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”