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Congress Veers Closer to Social Security Cliff

National Journal

Monday, September 7, 2015

Paul Ry­an has em­phas­ized re­form­ing the So­cial Se­cur­ity dis­ab­il­ity pro­gram so that dis­abled work­ers have more in­cent­ive to go back to work. Sources on and off Cap­it­ol Hill, lib­er­al and con­ser­vat­ive, say that House Re­pub­lic­ans are now shap­ing a pro­pos­al in pur­suit of that goal.

But de­pend­ing on the fi­nal form it takes, the policy could be­come a polit­ic­al flash point between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats—and com­plic­ate Con­gress’s ef­forts to avert a 20 per­cent be­ne­fit cut to 9 mil­lion dis­abled work­ers and their fam­il­ies next year…

Oth­er de­tails will also be watched closely: Would the policy be im­ple­men­ted na­tion­ally and per­man­ently, or with a lim­ited au­thor­iz­a­tion? Or does Con­gress ap­prove pi­lot pro­jects, with the ex­pect­a­tion that if it proves suc­cess­ful, it will be taken na­tion­wide? Everything is said to be on the table.

The gen­er­al concept isn’t in­her­ently par­tis­an, and there might be a way to struc­ture the policy so that it doesn’t de­volve in­to par­tis­an in­fight­ing. A work­ing group from the Bi­par­tis­an Policy Cen­ter, which looked at op­tions for im­prov­ing the So­cial Se­cur­ity dis­ab­il­ity pro­gram and put out a re­port last month, said that there was “wide­spread in­terest” in over­haul­ing the pro­gram so that be­ne­fits start to de­crease gradu­ally as people earn more money but people would be al­lowed to earn more than the cur­rent $1,090 cap.