Advocates press Washington to stay off Social Security

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) sent letters, signed by more than 30 major disability rights groups, to Congress and President Obama on November 30, urging them to not make cuts to Social Security during the ongoing budget negotiations.

Photograph of Capitol building in Washington DC with flag out front
CCD weighs in on fiscal cliff option

Specifically the advocates urged them to avoid making a change to how inflation is measured for the purposes of calculating annual cost-of-benefits living increases in Social Security benefits, a proposal which has received some bipartisan support.

The proposal would replace the current consumer price index with a so-called “chained consumer price index,” which is designed to measure changing preferences in consumer behavior as prices increase.

The inflation rate is typically about 0.3 percent lower than  under the CPI, meaning that this years inflation rate would have been about 1.4 percent instead of 1.7 percent. The CCD estimates that a switch to the chained CPI would result in Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries seeing $347 less in benefits next year, a figure that would increase to $726 in 10 years.

“We support thoughtful efforts to strengthen the Social Security system’s long-term financing but changes to the programs should not be made in the context of deficit reduction,” the letter stated. “The Social Security system is a vital part of our social insurance safety net and protects some of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. Careful consideration should be given to the potential impact on seniors and people with disabilities before making any changes to such critical programs.”

Congress has until January 2 to come to a budget deal or automatic cuts, negotiated in August 2011, will go automatically into effect. The cuts would exempt Medicaid and Social Security, but would result in major reductions in discretionary funding for other programs that strongly impact people with disabilities, such as special education funding.

The chained CPI was heavily discussed during the 2011 negotiations that sparked the current budget negotiations and was recommended by both the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and the so-called “Gang of Six.”