Trump administration’s most cruel disability benefit cuts

Not a day goes by that the Trump administration does not find a new way to slash the safety net.

But his latest proposal – which would cut Social Security disability benefits by $ 2.6 billion over 10 years – is one of the cruelest. Millions of beneficiaries would have to prove their disability again – and navigate a complex web of red tape and red tape – every two years. Hundreds of thousands of people could lose their benefits even if their condition has not changed.

We’ve seen this movie before, when the Reagan administration implemented a similar policy. People with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, severe mental illness and even terminal cancer were told they were “no longer disabled” and their benefits were terminated. In total, half a million people have lost their benefits. Thousands of people have died, many by suicide. President Ronald Reagan’s “purge of persons with disabilities” caused such suffering that it sparked a bipartisan revolt of 18 states that refused to carry it out. Ultimately, a rare unanimous congressional vote ended the nightmarish politics in 1984.

Proving eligibility for benefits is an arduous process that can take months, even years, and hundreds or even thousands of pages of medical evidence. America has some of the strictest eligibility standards in the world. Over 60% of claims are denied and tens of thousands of people die each year while waiting to receive benefits.

OUR POINT OF VIEW:Book benefits for disabled workers, not displaced people

While vital, the benefits are so modest – averaging about $ 1,200 per month for Social Security disability insurance and $ 536 for Supplemental Security Income – that many recipients live in poverty. Unspeakable difficulties will result if this proposal takes effect.

The Trump administration – like Reagan’s – claims the proposal is about efficiency. But this is difficult to reconcile with the administration’s own accounting, finding that the new policy would cost almost as much to administer ($ 1.8 billion) as it would “save” over 10 years by cutting survivors’ benefits. But as with the rest of the Trump safety net cuts, cruelty seems to be the point.

Rebecca Vallas, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a former legal aid lawyer who has represented people with disabilities.

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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