Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Are families with disabilities still American families?

 Are families with disabilities still American families?


Later this month, the President is expected to unveil an American Families Plan to help American families through the economic downturn of the pandemic and to make life better going forward.  Notable by it absence are any updates to SSDI- Supplemental Security Disability Income benefits that are available to individuals and married couples with disabilities.

SSDI is available to people who are disabled or become disabled.  Eligible individuals must be under 65 (when they would qualify for Social Security).  Currently about 8 million Americans with disabilities receive a maximum federal benefit of $794 a month, married couples can receive up to $1,191 per month.  Some states supplement this allowance with state funds.

There is a strong congressional press to tie the amount to both the poverty level and to inflation so that finite amounts would be taken out of the rules.  Essentially this system is how regular social security works.  The members of Congress who support this move, want the benefit to be 100% of the federal poverty level and for an individual’s asset level to be adjusted upward with inflation.  Because the asset limit is not indexed to inflation, individual assets cap is operationally lowered each year.  Additionally, current rules lower benefits for individuals that receive other government assistance such as food stamps or shelter from a friend or family member. They would also like the married couple benefit to be double the individual benefit if both members of the couple quality.  Currently two individuals with disabilities who live together without being legally married come out ahead of the game on income.  The President backed these changes in the campaign but so far he has left them out of the American Families Plan which focuses on paid family leave, child care and other domestic issues.

The reality is that nothing is free.  If businesses are required to give paid family leave, that income will need to be made up through higher prices, lower overall wages and/or fewer employees.  That reckoning needs to be taken into account with any increased benefit.

So it is with increasing benefits for individuals with disabilities.  The entry point of the discussion is: should people with disabilities receive federal funds (our tax dollars) to assist in their support.  If we agree that they should, as we have agreed, then the next question is how much support?  That is a question being answered right now.  Are families with disabilities American families?  If so why are they not being included in the proposed legislation that supports other American families.

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