Republican lawmakers have proposed a short-term solution to try and avoid a 19 percent cut in Social Security disability benefits next year. If approved, the proposal would allow lawmakers to transfer up to $330 million from Social Security’s retirement fund to its disability fund over the next five years.
Howard Ankin, a Social Security disability lawyer in Chicago, supports any plan to avoid benefit cuts. However, he hopes that lawmakers find a more long-term funding solution.
Transfers from the retirement fund to the disability fund have happened 11 times in the past. However, experts say that those transfers are usually coupled with financial reforms that strengthen both programs over the long-term. In this case, there doesn’t appear to be any reforms proposed, but rather just a transfer of funds.
“The most important thing is avoiding benefit cuts for people on disability,” explained Mr. Ankin from his Social Security disability law office in Chicago. “Many people who are on disability are just scraping by. A 19 percent benefit cut could be enough to push them over the financial edge.”
Not all lawmakers agree with the proposal. Senator Bernie Sanders expressed concern that the proposal was just a band-aid. He suggested taxing the wealthy at higher rates to cover future shortfalls. Similarly, Maine Senator Angus King expressed concern about the future viability of the retirement fund if money was regularly transferred out of it to the disability fund.
“I too would like to see a long-term fix to the disability program,” explained Mr. Ankin. “I don’t know how the mechanics of the fix should work. I’ll leave that to the lawmakers. However, we can’t have people on disability living with the regular threat that their benefits could be cut.”
Mr. Ankin argued that the two sides should work together to find a solution. “This is bigger than the two parties,” he suggested. “This is about people suffering. We need real leadership and concrete solutions on this issue.”