July 26, 2015 Congress is working on legislation that would package together various reforms to the Social Security disability program with the aim of avoiding a big benefit cut next year, according to lawmakers, congressional aides, and lobbyists interviewed by National Journal.
But many tracking and working on the issue expect things to go down to the wire, and tempers are sure to flare over the third rail of American politics.
No final product exists, and the House and Senate likely will release separate bills, but there is an emerging picture of what the reform legislation ultimately would look like. Changes to the administrative-review process, work incentives, fraud provisions, and some pilot projects are among the items expected to make it into a bill that Congress hopes to pass to avoid a catastrophic 20-percent cut for those who receive disability insurance.
Social Security’s disability fund, which covers 10 million Americans, will be unable to pay its full benefits starting in late 2016, the program’s trustees said last week. Republicans on Capitol Hill have said that they won’t simply shift revenue from the much-larger retirement fund to avoid the coming shortfall—they want to pursue changes to make Social Security more solvent.
Work is under way in both chambers, but those involved acknowledge that Congress is likely to push right up against the deadline. Some lobbyists following the issue said they don’t expect action until the lame-duck session next year.
“It may be,” said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma in an interview at his office. He plans to unveil a reform package in the early fall. “I couldn’t begin to guess the timing on that, but I don’t anticipate we’re going to pass something in 2015. Because everybody will say we still have six months to go or eight months to go. Why are we doing it this early?”