A new bill, introduced in the Senate on June 8, would create a new system of classifications for beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability Insurance system, similar to those in most state workers’ compensation systems.
Currently, there are no separate classifications for SSDI beneficiaries. This binary system has been criticized by many as both making it too difficult to qualify and a disincentive for beneficiaries potentially capable of returning to work.
Under the SSDI Return to Work Act of 2016, beneficiaries would be classified as either “medical improvement expected,” “medical improvement likely,” “medical improvement possible” or “medical improvement not expected.”
People in the first two categories would be limited to receiving benefits for two and five years, respectively. People in the latter two categories would be required to undergo reviews every five and 10 years, respectively.
“It is incredibly important that Congress act to make Social Security Disability Insurance work as it was intended: a safety net for those who find themselves unable to work because of a disability,” Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said in a news release, co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). “As it is now, the program’s harmful incentives make it harder for some individuals to begin working again and ultimately exit the program. This proposal maintains support for disabled individuals while also providing a smooth transition for those who can return to work.”
Rep. French Hill (R-Arkansas) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
Some disability advocates have already signaled strong opposition to the measures.
“The Arc strongly opposes S. 3037 and H.R. 5409 as proposals that would lead to the loss of critical income and services for adults with significant disabilities,” the ARC wrote in a blog post. “Additionally, the bills would significantly increase SSA’s workload at a time when 1.1 million Americans are waiting over 535 days for a disability hearing (both historic highs), leading to even more people waiting and facing longer wait times.”