Trump administration proposes rule to punish disabled people

In its ongoing efforts to make life just that much more difficult and humiliating for vulnerable people, the Trump administration is floating a new rule that would add in layers of bureaucracy for some people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance. The administrative costs for that added level of review would basically zero out any savings to the program, proving once again that cruelty is the point for Donald Tump and team.

The proposed change would make disability insurance recipients demonstrate that they are still disabled, sooner and more frequently, potentially forcing them out of the program. As it stands, obtaining disability benefits under SSDI is arduous and takes months if not years for most applicants. Most applicants, in fact, are denied—upward of 70% for claims filed from 2008 through 2017. Beneficiaries are required to provide ongoing medical documentation for their status, on a schedule that depends on their disability and the potential for their health to improve. The change would create a new category, "likely" medical improvement, as opposed to the existing "possible" recovery and "expected" recovery. That's targeted primarily at older disabled workers, and would increase the number of reviews by 2.6 million, the administration says. That's an 18% increase, costing an estimated $1.8 billion. The administration says it would save $2 billion with the rule.

The Social Security Administration, in a tepid defense of the rule, says, "We believe that there may be positive employment effects as a result of these proposed rules, although we cannot currently quantify them." They likely can't quantify them because the opposite is likely true. There is actually existing research on the specific question of employment among older people who apply for SSDI and don't get it. That research, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, found that the people who were denied benefits because they were deemed able to do some kind of work were the least likely to be able to find jobs. Over half of those denied ended up reapplying for disability and getting it on appeal, or by taking early retirement and getting reduced Social Security retirement payments. Five years after being told to get a job, less than 20% had. The CBPP study isn't the only one that's demonstrated this; it points to one done in 1989 by the Government Accountability Office, as well as others conducted in 2011 and 2015.

These are among the people the Trump administration would force to jump through work-requirement hoops for food assistance or Medicaid, but this group is even unlikelier to be able to find the work that would qualify them for that help. Once again, the cruelty is the point.

by Joan McCarter

Daily Kos Staff