BEYOND THE NUMBERS
President Trump’s 2019 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 — by cutting $72 billion over ten years from disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). And it would compound the hit for those with disabilities by also severely cutting Medicaid, food assistance, and housing vouchers. President Trump proposed these harmful cuts less than two months after signing into law massive tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit those at the top.
Here are the details:
- The budget breaks the President’s promise by cutting Social Security benefits. 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, but his budget cuts tens of billions from Social Security’s disability benefits. It would halve retroactive benefits that disabled workers may receive — hurting, for example, a worker who’s hurt in a car crash and applies for benefits after struggling to return to work. Under current law, she can receive up to 12 months of retroactive benefits, but the Trump proposal would cut them to no more than six. A beneficiary who would have qualified for 12 months of retroactive benefits — a critical lifeline that can prevent bankruptcy or homelessness — 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.
The budget would cut nearly $7 billion from SSI over ten years by reducing benefits for families in which more than one member qualifies for SSI — hurting, for example, a family with children who share a genetic disorder. Last year, both the Trump budget and House Republicans proposed a similar plan, targeting some of America’s most vulnerable children and their families. Some 70 percent of poor families caring for more than one child with disabilities already struggle to meet basic needs, and these cuts would 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 for people with disabilities over five years. The proposal assumes that after five years of experimenting, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will find large savings. SSA, however, has launched 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 and high death rates, this proposal is very unlikely to fuel dramatic increases in work and, in turn, large savings for Social Security.
Enabling people with disabilities to work to their full potential would likely cost, not save, money. For example, it would mean more — not dramatically less — Medicaid spending for things like the long-term services and supports that many people with disabilities need to work. Slashing vital supports only makes it harder for people with severe illnesses and injuries to get back on their feet.
- Medicaid cuts threaten health care for people with disabilities. Medicaid — which the President also promised not to cut — is essential for people with disabilities, but his budget cuts Medicaid and subsidies for private coverage in the marketplace by $763 billion over the next decade. The President’s budget would do that in large part by adopting the proposal from Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham to cap per-beneficiary spending in Medicaid, which would severely hurt people with disabilities enrolled in the program by making the home- and community-based services that keep them out of institutions especially vulnerable to deep cuts.
- Deep SNAP cuts would harm people with disabilities. The budget would cut more than $213 billion — nearly 30 percent — from SNAP (formerly food stamps) over the next decade. It would cut benefits and radically restructure their delivery for the overwhelming majority of SNAP households, and millions would lose benefits altogether. More than one-fourth of SNAP participants have an impairment or disability, we’ve found, so these deep cuts would inevitably mean more hunger and hardship for people with disabilities.
- Housing assistance cuts would leave thousands of people with disabilities without vouchers that help them pay the rent. The budget proposes deep cuts in rental assistance for families. More than 200,000 fewer households would receive housing vouchers, likely including 89,000 adults with disabilities (some of whom are seniors). Eliminating vouchers will increase homelessness and worsen hardship for people with disabilities.
Disability can happen to anyone — especially those of 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.