Call the White House and Your Members of Congress – Oppose Benefit Cuts to Social Security and SSI
Major Events Last Week
Budget – House and Senate FY 2014 Budgets Released Offering Dramatically Different PlansHouse and Senate Budget Committee chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced their FY 2014 Budgets. As expected, they provided starkly different blueprints for federal spending and revenue for the next decade. Below is a comparison of the major provisions that are most relevant to the disability community.
||Block grants Medicaid and cuts spending by $810 billion
||$10 billion in Medicaid cuts with the caveat that none of those cuts can affect beneficiaries
||Turns Medicare into a voucher program and has steep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors
||$265 billion in Medicare cuts
|Social Security and SSI
||Social Security not cut, but the President and Congress will be required to develop plans to ensure it remains solvent. $300 billion cut from the income security portion of the budget which includes Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
|Non-Defense Discretionary spending (such as employment, education, and housing)
||$3.8 trillion cut beyond the across-the-board spending cuts
||Replaces the across-the-board spending cuts with $493 billion in domestic spending cuts, in addition to specific cuts above
See the Budget Resolutions at:
Budget – Senate FY 2013 CR Released
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) released the Senate continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government from the end of the current CR (March 27) through the end of the fiscal year. Since the Senate CR does not address the across-the-board cuts, the measure includes a very small increase from 2012 for most programs allowed under the Budget Control Act, which are then to be cut by approximately 5% for FY 2013.
Employment – House Approves the SKILLS Act
The House approved the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803; introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)) by a vote of 215 to 202. The legislation would consolidate 35 major workforce development programs, include most major programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), into a Workforce Innovation Fund that would provide funds to state and local workforce investment boards for employment and training programs. States would have the option of consolidating additional programs into the Workforce Innovation Fund; however, states could not consolidate Vocational Rehabilitation programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act. The bill would also consolidate the Projects with Industry and State Supported Employment Services Programs into the existing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants program. The Arc opposes this legislation. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.
Social Security – Bills to Strengthen Social Security Financing and Benefits Introduced
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have introduced related bills to apply Social Security payroll taxes to all income above $250,000, significantly strengthening Social Security’s long term finances (Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act, S. 500 and No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act, H.R. 1029). S. 500 was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance; H.R. 1029 was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced the Strengthening Social Security Act. The bill would change the method for calculating Social Security benefits, increasing benefits by approximately $70 per month. The bill also seeks to ensure that cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) adequately reflect beneficiaries’ living expenses, by basing the Social Security COLAs on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). Finally, the bill would phase out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to all wages. Combined, these changes will increase benefits for current and future beneficiaries while extending the life of the Trust Fund through approximately 2049.
The Arc supports efforts to strengthen the long-term solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds and to ensure that benefits are adequate, and supports both of these bills.
Social Security – House Holds Hearing on SSDI Financing
The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on “Financing Challenges Facing the Social Security Disability Insurance Program.” Witnesses were Joyce M. Manchester, Ph.D., Chief, Long-Term Analysis Unit, Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division Congressional Budget Office and Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony and archived video.
Social Security – Hearing on the Social Security Administration’s Budget Postponed
The House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a budget hearing on “Addressing Social Security Administration’s Management Challenges in a Fiscally Constrained Environment.” Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security testified. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony.
Employment – House Approves Bill to Block State TANF Waivers
The House approved the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act (H.R. 890, introduced by Rep. Dave Camp(R-MI)). The bill would prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from finalizing, implementing, enforcing, or otherwise taking any action regarding the HHS Information Memorandum (IM) issued July 12, 2012. The IM notified states that HHS would consider state proposals to waive some work participation requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
The HHS IM indicated “the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.” The notice specifies that “HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.” Examples provided by HHS showed the different types of projects for which a waiver might be granted, including “projects that demonstrate strategies for more effectively serving individuals with disabilities, along with an alternative approach to measuring participation and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” The Arc supports efforts to secure appropriate supports and services for TANF recipients with disabilities, who are estimated to make up a sizable proportion of TANF recipients.
Major Events This Week
Budget – House and Senate Budgets Expected to be Voted on This Week
The House and Senate Budget resolutions are expected to be passed by the respective chambers this week, but will not move out of conference committee. This would mean that current mandatory spending and revenue policies would continue unchanged with discretionary spending being determined by the annual appropriations process.
Budget – Senate FY 2013 Appropriations Debate Continues
The Senate continues debate this week over amendments to the FY 2013 CR needed to avert a government shutdown after March 27. Consideration of the bill had been put off after the two parties were unable to reach a deal over which of the nearly 100 amendments would get floor votes.
Social Security – House to Hold Hearing on Social Security Disability Decisions
On March 20th the House Committee on Ways and Means, Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Challenges of Achieving Fair and Consistent Disability Decisions.” A witness list has not yet been announced. Visit the Committee web site for more information and for streaming video on the day of the hearing.
Social Security – The Arc Releases New Resource on the Chained CPI, a Benefit Cut
The Arc has released a new issue of National Policy Matters, “The Chained CPI Cuts Social Security and SSI: What Disability Advocates Need to Know.” With ongoing Congressional discussions over deficit reduction, The Arc is very concerned about threats to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These lifelines provide essential financial security for millions of Americans, including people with disabilities. The Arc believes that Social Security and SSI should not be part of deficit reduction, and that any changes to these systems must be carefully evaluated in terms of their effects on beneficiaries. This issue of National Policy Matters looks at one major threat to Social Security and SSI, the chained Consumer Price Index (“chained CPI”).
- The chained CPI cuts Social Security and SSI benefits by reducing annual cost of living increases. Cuts add up significantly over time and would disproportionately harm people with disabilities.
- The chained CPI also cuts veterans pensions and certain military and civilian retirement benefits, and would limit eligibility for over 30 vital programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
- The public strongly opposes cutting Social Security, including through the chained CPI.
Visit The Arc’s website to read more and download the National Policy Matters.
Long Term Care Commission – President Makes Final Appointments
The White House announced President Obama’s appointments to the Commission on Long Term Care. These final three appointments complete the Commission which will have six months to make recommendations regarding long term services and supports. President Obama’s appointments to the Commission are:
- Henry Claypool – Executive Vice President of the American Association of People with Disabilities. He recently served as Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration for Community Living at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where he also advised the Secretary on disability policy.
- Julian Harris – Director of the Office of Medicaid in Massachusetts, a position he has held since July 2011. He oversees the state’s $11 billion Medicaid program that provides comprehensive health insurance for children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities.
- Carol Raphael – Vice Chair of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Board of Directors, a position she has held since May 2012. From 1989 to 2011, she was Chief Executive Officer and President of Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
The other appointments, three each by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, were previously announced and reported in Capitol Insider. The President’s appointees bring the total to 15 members as envisioned by the law.
New Film Follows The Arc Audi Racing Program in Action
Last year, The Arc launched The Arc Audi Racing Program, a partnership between The Arc and RS Werkes (formerly Istook’s Motorsports). The goal was to provide a unique opportunity for people with I/DD to get a taste of what it is like to be part of a fast-paced professional race crew at select races in the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge race series. This remarkable program allowed chapters of The Arc to participate in races across the country, and gave individuals with I/DD a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The program sparked the interested of award-winning film producer and director Heidi Reinberg. Following a chapter as they participated in the program she captured a day at the race track with people with I/DD, including a pit crew member, who is raising awareness about what people with I/DD can do when given the chance. Check out The Arc of San Francisco’s day at the race track.