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Cotton, Lee, Rubio, and Hill Introduce Legislation to Save Social Security Disability Insurance from Bankruptcy

March 15, 2017

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C.- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) along with Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) today introduced the Return to Work Act of 2017, 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. Congressman French Hill (R-Arkansas) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

"We shouldn't resign people with treatable conditions to a lifetime of sitting on the sidelines. If they can get back to work, then by all means we should help them," said Cotton. "That's why we've got to fix this program so it takes into account people's different capabilities. This will not only save the program, which is dangerously close to going bankrupt; It will save our aid for the people who need it most."

"We can't keep stealing from the Social Security Trust Fund to bail out the Social Security Disability Insurance system," Lee said. "We need real reforms that will both make it easier for recovering Americans to return to work and make the program solvent," said Lee.

"Social Security Disability Insurance is supposed to be a safety net for people with disabilities. However, rampant abuse, lax enforcement and insufficient accountability have enabled this program to grow unchecked and prevented many people from going back to work. The health of our national economy and strength of our communities depend on able-bodied Americans earning paychecks. This legislation represents a long overdue reform that takes care of working Americans and saves our social safety net for the truly disabled," said Rubio.

"SSDI was developed to be a safety net for those who suffer from a permanent, debilitating disability and to provide temporary assistance for those with a recoverable illness or disability while they heal, but disincentives to work and delays in continuing disability reviews have resulted in disabled individuals forgoing employment to remain on the program and maintain much needed benefits. In order to ensure that it will continue to aid those who need it most and promote work for those willing and able, SSDI needs to be reformed. This bill is the type of reform that will keep the program solvent by helping those with recoverable illnesses and disabilities live full and independent lives by returning to the workforce. I am pleased to be joined by Senators Cotton, Lee, and Rubio in promoting this smart reform of this crucial program," said Hill.

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.