BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Update, May 25: We have revised this post to include the proposed annual cut to SSI.
President Trump’s 2018 budget would make it harder for millions of people with disabilities to afford the basics — food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care. It cuts $72 billion over ten years from disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). And it would gut Medicaid, food assistance, and housing vouchers, compounding the hit to people with disabilities.
Here are the details:
- The budget breaks the President’s promise by cutting the Social Security benefits hard-working Americans have earned. Workers pay into Social Security to protect themselves and their families if they retire, if a disability cuts their careers short, or if they die leaving family members to support. The President repeatedly promised not to cut Social Security.
The budget cuts tens of billions from Social Security’s disability benefits. One proposal would halve retroactive benefits that disabled workers may receive — hurting, for example, a worker whose career is cut short by a car crash and who applies for benefits after struggling to return to work. Under current law, she can receive up to 12 months of retroactive benefits — a critical lifeline that can prevent bankruptcy or homelessness — but the Trump proposal would cut that payment in half. A beneficiary who would have qualified for 12 months of retroactive benefits could lose about $7,000 in earned Social Security benefits.
- The budget would force people with disabilities into poverty and hardship. SSI protects the most vulnerable people with disabilities, including children. Most SSI recipients qualify based on a severe disability; 1.2 million children receive SSI for conditions such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disability, and blindness.
One proposal in the budget would cut nearly $1 billion a year from SSI. It would cut benefits for the 1.4 million SSI recipients who live in households where more than one family member has a disability — hurting, for example, a family with children who share a genetic disorder. Some 70 percent of poor families caring for more than one child with disabilities already struggle to meet basic needs, and these cuts will make their lives even harder.
- The budget relies on a vague proposal for large disability savings. Two-thirds of the cuts to disability programs come from a vague proposal to “test new approaches to increase labor force participation,” which would slash nearly $50 billion from people with disabilities over five years. The proposal assumes that after five years of experimentation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find large savings. However, SSA has undertaken many demonstration projects over the years to test new ways to encourage beneficiaries to return to work, and they have consistently shown limited results or proved not cost-effective. Given disability beneficiaries’ severe impairments, their high death rates, and the struggles even rejected applicants face in supporting themselves, dramatic increases in work leading to large savings for Social Security seem very unlikely.
Enabling people with disabilities to work to their full potential would likely cost, not save, money. For example, it would mean more Medicaid spending for things like the long-term services and supports that many people with disabilities need to work — not dramatically less. Slashing vital supports only makes it harder for people facing severe illnesses and injuries to get back on their feet.
- Medicaid cuts threaten health care for people with disabilities. Medicaid — another program the President promised not to cut — is essential for people with disabilities, but his budget would cut it by more than $600 billion on top of the already severe Medicaid cuts in the House-passed health care bill that would cause more than 20 million Americans to lose coverage. These cuts would make it harder for many people with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid, threaten the home- and community-based services that keep them out of institutions, and cut school funding for children with disabilities.
- Deep SNAP (food stamp) cuts would harm people with disabilities. The budget would cut more than $193 billion — over 25 percent — from SNAP over the next decade. It would shift costs to states and let them cut benefits for people who need help paying for groceries. More than one-fourth of SNAP participants have a disability, according to a forthcoming CBPP analysis, so these deep cuts would inevitably mean more hunger and hardship for people with disabilities.
- Housing assistance cuts will mean about 110,000 people with disabilities would lose vouchers that help them pay the rent. The budget proposes deep cuts in rental assistance for families. More than 250,000 fewer households would receive housing vouchers, likely including 110,000 with people with disabilities. Eliminating vouchers will increase homelessness and worsen hardship for people with disabilities.
Disability can happen to anyone — especially with advancing age. Serious illnesses or injuries push many people — including families caring for children with disabilities — into poverty, and many more struggle to afford basic needs. The President’s budget will make it much harder for people with disabilities to get by, even as he calls for extremely large tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest people and profitable corporations.