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Federal legislation proposes cut-off dates for SSDI benefits

Georgia residents may be concerned to hear that legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that may make it more difficult for Social Security disability benefit recipients to retain their benefits. The bill, known as the Social Security Disability Insurance Return to Work Act, would place disability benefit recipients into one of four classifications based on the likelihood that their disability would improve.

Category one consists of those for whom medical improvement is expected. Category two consists of those for whom medical improvement is likely. Category three consists of those for whom medical improvement is possible. Finally, category four consists of those for whom medical improvement is not expected.

Recipients whose medical condition is expected to improve would see their disability benefits cut off after two years. Recipients who are likely to recover from their medical condition would see their disability benefits cut off after five years. If a person's medical condition was categorized as "improvement expected" or "improvement likely" they would still retain the ability to apply for disability benefits again after their benefits are cut off. However, they'd have to start at square one, and go through the entire application process again. Just because they had been awarded disability benefits in the past would not have any effect on subsequent applications for benefits. If a person's medical condition was categorized as "not expected to recover," there would not be a cut-off date for their benefits.

The bill's founder, Senator Tom Cotton, claims the bill is in response to the increase over the past 36 years of people receiving disability benefits. As of 2016, 8.8 million people in the United States were receiving disability benefits. Moreover, spending on the SSDI program has now reached $137 billion. However, less than one of every 200 disability benefit recipients go back to being gainfully employed.

It is understandable that current recipients of SSD benefits may be worried about how this bill would affect them should it be enacted, especially if they are unable to work. Fortunately, the bill still must go through the entire legislative process before it becomes law, and could be stymied at any step on the way. Still, it is important to keep an eye on any legislation that might affect SSDI recipients, for whom their benefits are so important.

Source: Arkansas Online, "Bill aims to add disability-aid limits," Frank E. Lockwood, March 16, 2017

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