In the early 1980s, the Ronald Reagan administration terminated benefits for thousands of disabled people who were supposedly loafing on Social Security Disability Insurance instead of getting a job. The cuts sparked a public outcry, state government protests, serious congressional pushback and court rulings restoring people’s benefits.Now there are proposed changes that disability advocates say could repeat those same mistakes. The reviews hit especially hard at mentally disabled people, who are less likely to be able to defend themselves.
In a proposed regulation, the Social Security Administration said in November that to “maintain appropriate stewardship of the disability program” it wants to do more frequent reviews checking that program enrollees are still disabled.
More than 8 million Americans receive Social Security Disability Insurance, for which they must prove to the government that they suffer from a severe disability that won’t go away within a year. Even after they’ve been awarded benefits, from time to time most recipients have to prove that they’re still unable to work in order to continue receiving benefits. How often reviews happen depends on the severity of a person’s impairments.
The administration wants to make those “continuing disability reviews” more frequent, arguing that the current system fails to account for medical improvement among some recipients. And it said it would look particularly closely at disability claimants awarded benefits partly because their age and educational attainment made them less likely to be able to find work.