SSA Proposes Rule Change
to Enable More
to Return to Work
As part of the Clinton Administration's
ongoing efforts to help people with disabilities reenter the workforce,
Vice President Al Gore announced today that the Social Security
Administration is proposing an increase in the amount that disabled
adult beneficiaries can earn while still remaining eligible for
benefits. The proposed increase, from $500 to $700 per month, may
affect as many as 250,000 Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities.
"This is good news for many
of our disability beneficiaries," commented Commissioner Kenneth
S. Apfel. "This increase will allow more beneficiaries with disabilities
to return to the workforce and enable them to lead more productive,
Current rules state that to
become eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) or
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, an individual must
be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) that
exceeds $500 per month. In addition, SGA is used as a measure in
determining ongoing entitlement for DI benefits. The SGA level is
set by the Commissioner through regulation.
"Many beneficiaries are leery
of attempting work for fear of inadvertently crossing the SGA threshold
and losing critically important cash and medical benefits," stated
SGA has been increased only
once since 1980 and that increase occurred in 1990. The proposed
increase would raise SGA to reflect the level of the growth in average
wages since 1990.
Currently, less than one half
of one percent of disability beneficiaries leave the rolls voluntarily
and return to work. Each year since 1991, approximately 400,000
disability beneficiaries have remained on the rolls and have participated
in the workforce. The higher SGA level is expected to prompt additional
beneficiaries to venture into the workforce.
SSA has been actively involved
in Administration efforts to encourage citizens with disabilities
to enter the workforce. In addition to the change in SGA, the Administration
recently announced its support of legislation sponsored by Senators
Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth and Moynihan that would eliminate work disincentives
and expand the availability of health care services.
In addition, the legislation
includes a "ticket" that would enable DI or SSI beneficiaries to
obtain employment, rehabilitation, and/or support services that
are tailored to their needs from their choice of either a public
or private provider of services.
In 1999, 4.8 million disabled
workers are expected to receive Social Security benefits and approximately
4.3 million disabled adults are projected to receive SSI benefits.
"As a nation, we are best served
when all of our citizens have the opportunity to contribute their
talent, ideas and energy to the workforce. We must continue to seek
new ways to ensure that persons with disabilities can share the
benefits of our economic prosperity," concluded Commissioner Apfel.
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Note: Copies of
most SSA press releases, as well as other Social Security information
and statistics, are available at SSA's Internet site, Social Security
Online, at http://www.ssa.gov