Policy Issue

Policy Watch: Proposed Changes to Social Security Disability Payments

Potential changes affect almost 60,000 locally

January 28, 2020

In November 2019 the Social Security Administration (SSA) proposed changes to federal-level disability payment programs. The government must conduct a periodic review, known as a continuing disability review (CDR), of each disability case at least once every three years. The required frequency varies based on the disability category (ordered from most to least frequent): Medical Improvement Expected (MIE), Medical Improvement Possible (MIP), and Medical Improvement Not Expected (MINE). The three changes proposed in November will add a fourth category; revise criteria for each category in part to reflect recent medical advances; and make minor changes to the frequency of CDRs. The fourth category would be Medical Improvement Likely (MIL) and would be reviewed less frequently than MIE but more frequently than MIP. While both MIL and MIP indicate potential improvement, the MIL category will be used when a condition does not cause permanent damage and a recovery timeline can be predicted.

Supporters believe these changes will cut costs and maintain the integrity of the programs by ensuring that only those who are eligible continue to receive benefits. Skeptics worry that this will result in a vulnerable population losing benefits; some are reminded of changes made in the early 1980s that resulted in a benefit cessation rate of 45 percent, to the extent that SSA was pressured by Congress and the public to change their determination processes.

It is difficult to estimate the impact of these changes locally because people can qualify for more than one program. However, it is known that there are over 58,000 recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), one program included in the proposed changes, across the three MetroWest counties.

Learn more about this proposed rule change here.

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