RELEASE: Congress Should Give Workers with Disabilities a Fair Shot at Gainful Employment in Budget Negotiations

Washington, D.C. — Last month, House Republicans passed their fiscal year 2016 budget proposal and continued to target Social Security Disability Insurance for cuts. A new Center for American Progress column released today details how these cuts would make it harder for Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries to get back to work and questions why Congress is adding barriers to work instead of enacting policies that would give workers a fair shot at gainful employment.

As lawmakers return this week from their spring recess, the Center for American Progress outlines three reasons why Congress should make it a bipartisan priority to reject proposed cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance that would penalize beneficiaries who attempt to return to work. Congress should instead enact policies that would allow more people with disabilities to enter and remain in the workforce.

“Cutting benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries who lose a job through no fault of their own would punish them for attempting to return to work and push them and their families deeper into poverty,” said Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for CAP’s Poverty to Prosperity Program. “Instead of making it harder for disability beneficiaries to go back to work, policymakers should work to find common ground on policies that give workers with disabilities a fair shot.”

1. Policies should support, not discourage, Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries in returning to work

The cuts in the House budget and other similar proposals would punish Disability Insurance beneficiaries for attempting to return to work—as they are encouraged by law to do—by cutting their Social Security benefits or putting them at risk of losing their eligibility for benefits entirely if they lose a job through no fault of their own and qualify for unemployment insurance.

2. Current benefits are modest but vital, and cuts would push more workers with disabilities into poverty

For the less than 1 percent of individuals served by Disability Insurance and unemployment insurance who qualify for benefits under both programs, the average combined benefit is roughly $1,100 per month. The cuts in the House budget and other similar proposals would push even more disabled workers and their families into poverty, jeopardizing their ability to keep a roof over their heads and afford needed, often life-sustaining medications.

3. Unemployment insurance should be there for all workers who earn it, including those with disabilities

Disability Insurance beneficiaries who lose a job while attempting to return to work and qualify for unemployment insurance should not be treated differently from other workers; they should be permitted to access the modest benefits they have worked hard to earn. Policymakers should instead turn their attention to removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having a fair shot at employment and economic security. This extends to raising the minimum wage, strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit, ensuring paid leave and paid sick days, expanding Medicaid, increasing access to long-term services, and many others.

Click here to read the column.

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Liz Bartolomeo at lbartolomeo@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8151.

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