SSI and SSDI Could be Revamped

The Social Security Administration is working on new initiatives that could cut down on wasteful overpayments, disincentives to work and costly labor time to investigate payments.

The Work Incentives Simplification Pilot is a legislative proposal being considered by Congress that could replace well-intentioned but complicated laws meant to incentivize disability beneficiaries to return to work. The work incentives proved too burdensome for an agency already fighting funding cuts.

Carolyn Colvin, deputy administrator for the Social Security Administration spoke to the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Social Security in late January.

She explained that the new legislation could kill regulations like trial work periods and the extended period of eligibility that are overcomplicating the work of the administration.

The law now says people on Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, are on a sliding scale as they return to work. So, for every $2 an SSI beneficiary earns, $1 is removed from their SSI benefit, she said. Improper SSI payments happen when beneficiaries fail to notify the administration of new work, new assets or a raise or reduction in salary.

Each beneficiary is a different case with a different employer and a different income. Each case has to be individually handled, which often means contact with the employer. Most cases are complicated and require small bits of work and starting and stopping until enough information is gathered to make a decision, she said.

This type of work takes considerable expertise and training and the administration simply does not have the resources to do it well, she said.

There also are plenty of crossover beneficiaries who qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance C as many as 30 percent of SSI recipients also get SSDI between 18- and 64-years-old. Because the two programs are guided by two sets of rules, the labor for the Social Security Administration is overly burdensome, she said.

Officials hope the new WISP plan will address a disincentive to work by eliminating a beneficiary’s fear that if they get a job, they will lose their benefits.

The work incentive policies are difficult for beneficiaries to understand and for the administration to oversee, Colvin told the subcommittee.

The goal of WISP is to test some simplified work rules that would still be subject to tight evaluation. Officials hope the WISP will encourage people to work while reducing administrative costs, she said.

WISP also would count beneficiaries’ earnings when they are paid instead of when they are earned so that SSDI and SSI rules would be better aligned.

A qualified attorney can represent clients in Social Security cases to help make sure they fully explain their case.

Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012. Filed under Social Security Disability.