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Cotton, Lee Introduce Legislation to Strengthen and Save Social Security Disability Insurance

June 8, 2016

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (Cotton) (202) 224-2353 or Conn Carroll (Lee) (202) 224-5444

Washington, D.C.- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) today introduced the Return to Work Act of 2016, legislation that will save Social Security Disability Insurance from bankruptcy. This bill would help Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries who can recover return to work, while also preserving the program's long-term sustainability for the permanently disabled.

"Social Security Disability Insurance is a critical lifeline for many in Arkansas and around the country. But for too long Congress has failed to act to help those on disability who can recover get back to work and leave the program. As a result, the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund remains in danger of insolvency," said Senator Cotton. "We must act to save this program, but not at the expense of those who truly need it. This bill will change nothing for current disability beneficiaries and instead preserves the program by changing Social Security Disability Insurance from a one-size fits all model to a model that takes each individual's capabilities into account."

"It is incredibly important that Congress act to make Social Security Disability Insurance work as it was intended: a safety net for those who find themselves unable to work because of a disability," Senator Lee said. "As it is now, the program's harmful incentives make it harder for some individuals to begin working again and ultimately exit the program. This proposal maintains support for disabled individuals while also providing a smooth transition for those who can to return to work."

Background: Social Security's Disability Insurance program has grown more than six-fold from $20 to $137 billion (in 2012 dollars) since 1970. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries who leave the program to return to work has dropped from nearly six percent in 1982 to less than one half of one percent today. The Return to Work Act requires disability determiners to classify new beneficiaries based on whether medical improvement is expected. Beneficiaries who are expected to recover would be given a timeline and additional resources to obtain employment while on SSDI. These beneficiaries will also be able to re-apply if they have not recovered. Beneficiaries who are not expected to recover will have no timeline for program participation.

Congressman French Hill (R-Arkansas) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.