Among a flurry of executive actions in President Biden’s first few days in office, a move to withdraw a proposed rule that could have cut off benefits for hundreds of thousands of disabled Americans was little noticed.
The rule, first proposed by President Biden’s predecessor in 2019, would have required continuing disability reviews every two years for many individuals already receiving disability benefits- likely cutting off benefits to thousands of people for supposed medical improvement or for difficulty just keeping up with Social Security’s ever-changing requirements.
This is a good sign that Biden will likely pursue at least some of the disability reform goals he campaigned on, including:
- Increasing the supplemental security income benefit (currently $794 per month) to 125 percent of the poverty level
- Remove the SSI marriage penalty that substantially decreases benefits for married couples
- Eliminate the five-month waiting period for Social Security disability insurance benefits, and the two-year waiting period for Medicare
- Raise the earnings limits on disability insurance benefits, encouraging them to pursue employment opportunities without risk of losing their benefits
Biden has said that he would pay for these programs by collecting Social Security taxes from earners making $400,000 and above. Currently, earnings above $142,800 are not taxed by Social Security.
Of course, getting this agenda enacted would require cooperation from Congress, and it’s unclear whether the president has the votes to enact these policies. Still, expect the Biden administration to turn to Social Security reform later in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to abate.