dollar with flag, social securityWhile President Trump campaigned on a promise that he would not cut Social Security or Medicare benefits, budget director Mick Mulvaney recently admitted that the social security disability insurance and supplemental security income programs may be targeted for cuts. These programs are relied upon by millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, providing a vital lifeline to them. Mulvaney’s comments came when he appeared on “Face the Nation” on CBS on March 19 when the host asked if Social Security and Medicare would be cut. Mulvaney drew a distinction between retirement benefits and disability benefits through the Social Security Administration, claiming that people do not think about SSDI when they think about Social Security.

The Importance of SSDI and SSI

SSDI is an important financial safety net for millions of disabled workers and their families across the U.S. The Urban Institute reports that 8.9 million workers and 2.1 million dependents were paid disability benefits through the program in April 2013 alone. Disability benefits through SSDI are provided to severely disabled workers who have worked in jobs that paid into social security for a sufficient number of years to earn credits towards benefits. SSI eligibility is available for disabled people who have not accumulated enough work credits and pays less.

The average SSDI benefit amount was $1,399 per month in 2013. The Urban Institute points out that the monthly amounts that people receive vary widely, however, with people on the upper end receiving over $2,000 per month and those on the lower end receiving less than $850 per month. Reportedly, more than half of SSDI recipients receive benefits that are under $1,050 per month, pointing to how modest the payments are.

How these benefits fit into the financial pictures for recipients and their families underscores their importance. The Urban Institute reports the following:

  • Forty-seven percent of SSDI recipients depend on their benefits for more than half of their family incomes.
  • Twenty percent of SSDI recipients relied on SSDI benefits for 90 percent or more of their family incomes.
  • Among recipients who are unmarried, 34 percent rely on SSDI benefits for 90 percent or more of their incomes.
  • Seventy-one percent of unmarried recipients relied on SSDI benefits for more than half of their incomes.

The question remains what any cuts to SSDI would look like and how they might affect recipients and their families. People who are already receiving Chicago social security disability benefits might expect to receive reduced monthly benefits payments and to face heavier scrutiny when their continued eligibility for benefits is reviewed by the Social Security Administration. Those who apply for benefits based on their disabling conditions may find that it is more difficult to be approved for SSDI than it was previously. A Chicago social security attorney may prepare his or her clients’ cases to present the strongest evidence of disabilities possible to improve the likelihood that they will be successful.

The Likelihood of Cuts in the Current Climate

Trump’s budget is just a proposal, and it would be subjected to debate in Congress before it could be passed. The Republican party holds majorities in both the House and the Senate. In the House of Representatives, there are currently 237 Republican representatives and 193 Democratic representatives. The count in the Senate is currently 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats. While Trump enjoys a majority of his party in Congress, that does not ensure that his budget recommendations will be implemented by them.

Social Security and Medicare have long been political flashpoints. While some politicians have discussed the need to cut the programs, they have been stymied in their efforts in the past because of the large numbers of people who rely on social security benefits in their retirement years. Mulvaney’s apparent push to treat SSDI differently than social security retirement benefits may be an effort to reframe the way in which people view the program. It is unclear whether the elected representatives and senators would move to make the cuts, however. It would largely depend on their perception of how their constituents might react in the face of program and benefits cuts.

A Chicago social security attorney believes that people should watch the budget negotiations closely and make certain to let their representatives and senators know what they feel about the potential cuts to the SSDI program. Without the availability of benefits, a sizable minority of Americans may find themselves without having the ability to survive financially when their disabilities prevent them from being able to complete the tasks that are required of them by their jobs. People may want to call their representatives in advance of any debates about the government’s budget in order to protect their ability and that of their loved ones to seek and obtain Chicago social security benefits when they are needed.