Lankford on SSDI: The Time for Reform is Now

On Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) wrote an op-ed in The Hill advocating for meaningful reform to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The SSDI trust fund's pending insolvency is one of the Fiscal Speed Bumps that Congress will need to address before the end of the legislative session next year, and many see it as an opportunity to put in place changes that will extend the trust fund's solvency in perpetuity.

Lankford noted:

The Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund is sustained by payroll taxes on each check. When the trust fund goes insolvent next year, 14 million disabled Americans will face a drastic cut to benefits of almost 20 percent or the fund will have to be replenished with higher taxes.

Some have suggested to fix the insolvency that Congress should only shift funds from Social Security or the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, which would reduce those programs’ solvency as well. Clearly, shifting funds does not address the root of the problem.

It is time for a major overhaul of the disability system and a renewed focus on the disabled. Before the SSDI program goes insolvent in 2016, there are things that Congress and the Social Security Administration can do to protect the program for those who rely on it and the taxpayers who fund it.

With the program trust fund set to deplete its reserves at the end of 2016, Lankford stressed the need for changes to the program that ensure it maintains its integrity and sustainability as a valuable support for some of the country's most vulnerable populations. He suggested that there could be positive changes ranging from administrative processes within the Social Security Administration to larger legislative actions that Congress can take, including a bill he sponsored with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on restricting procurement of medical evidence to reputable sources.

According to Lankford:

Washington can be notorious for waiting until the last minute or kicking the can down the road on national problems.

For the sake of the millions of truly disabled Americans relying on this program, as well as all taxpayers, neither should be an option. There are things that the Social Security Administration can do alone, and reforms that Congress can make with legislation, to prevent large, sudden benefit cuts to disabled recipients....Social Security disability insurance is a looming crisis. The time for reform is now.

In addition to the reforms already proposed in Congress, the McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative has commissioned 12 papers that will present policy proposals for both administrators and legislators on how to extend the life of the trust fund while improving the program for people with disabilities. The Initiative will culminate with the SSDI Solutions Conference slated for Tuesday, August 4, 2015. If you'd like to attend the conference, you can read more about it here, and you can RSVP for the conference here.