Date: April 9, 1996
THE PRESIDENT SIGNS H.R. 3136
THE "CONTRACT WITH AMERICA ADVANCEMENT ACT OF 1996"
On March 29, 1996, the President signed into law the Contract With America Advancement Act of 1996 (H.R. 3136), as P.L. 104-121. The bill contains the Senior Citizens ' Right to Work Act of 1996, the Small Business Growth and Fairness Act of 1996, establishes a new process for Congress ional review of agency rulemaking, and provides for a permanent increase in the public debt limit from $4.9 trillio n to $5.5 trillion. The bill contains the following provisions of interest to Social Security.
Denial of Disability Benefits to Drug Addicts and Alcoholics
- Prohibits disability insurance (DI) and supplemental security income (SSI) eligibility to individuals whose drug addiction and/or alcoholism (DAA) is a contributing factor material to the finding of disability. This provision would apply to individuals who file for benefits on or after the date of enactment and to individuals whose claims are finally adjudicated on or after the date of enactment. This provision applies to current beneficiaries on January 1, 1997. SSA must: 1) notify current DAA beneficiaries of new provisions by June 27, 1996; and 2) complete new medical determinations by January 1 , 1997, for affected current beneficiaries who request such a determination within 120 days after the date of enactment.
- Applies representative payee requirements to DI or SSI beneficiaries who have a DAA condition, as determined by the Commissi oner, and who are incapable of managing benefits . SSA would refer these individuals to the appropriate State agency for treatment. These provisions would apply to applications filed after June 1996. In addition, reta ins the $50 fee that representatives can collect for beneficiaries who have a DAA condition that leaves an individual incapable of managing their own benefits.
- Provides an appropriation of $50 million for each of FYs 1997 and 1998 to carry out on a priority basis activities relating to the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse under the Public Health Service Act.
Continuing Disability Reviews
- Authorizes additional funds to SSA for fiscal years 1996 through 2002 for the purpose of conducting Social Security disability insurance (DI) continuing disability reviews (CDRs) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) CDRs and disability eligibi lity redeterminations. 111is would be accomplished by increasing the amount of funds available for appropriations under the discretionary spending cap in the Budget Enforcement Act.
- Directs the Commissioner of Social Security to ensure that the funds made available pursuant to this provision are used, to the greatest extent practicable, to maximize the combined savings to the old-age , survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI), SSI, Medicare , and Medicaid programs..
- Requires the Commissioner to report annually, for FYs 1996 through 2002 , to Congress on the amount of money spent on CDRs, the number of reviews conducted (by category ), the disposition of such reviews (by program), and the estimated savings over the short-, medium-, and long-term for OASDI, SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid programs from CDRs which result in cessations, and the estimated present value of such savings.
- Establishes statutorily in the Social Security Administration the position of Chief Actuary, to be appointed by, and report directly to, the Commissioner, and be subject to removal only for cause. Effective on March 29, 1996.
Dependency Test for Stepchildren
- Provides that a stepchild would have to be receiving at least one-half support from the stepparent when the child' s claim is filed to get benefits. (The option for finding dependency based on living-with would be eliminated.) This provis ion is effective for benefits of individuals who become entitled after June 1996.
- If the natural parent and the stepparent of an entitled stepchild divorce, benefits to the stepchild based on the work record of the stepparent would terminate the month after the month in which such divorce becomes final. This provision is effective for final divorces occurring after June 1996.
Increase in the Earnings Test Annual Exempt Amount
- Gradually raises, beginning in 1996, the earnings limit for the retirement earnings test (RET) for beneficiaries who have attained normal retirement age to $30,000 by 2002 (compared with an estimated $14,760 for 2002 under prior law, based on the intermediate assumptions in the 1995 Trustees Report). The applicable 1996 exempt amount under prior law was $11,520. Exempt amounts under P. L. 104-121 (exempt amounts under prior law are also shown) are:
After 2002, the annual exempt amount will be indexed to growth in average wages.
The substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount applicable to individuals who are statutorily blind would no longer be linked to the RET exempt amount for individuals ages 65 to 69. Instead, the SGA amount for blind people would continue to be adjusted annually as under present law, i.e., based on the national average wage index.
Benefit and Tax Statements
- Requires SSA to conduct a pilot study of the efficacy of providing retired workers with information about their Social Security benefits and taxes. The study would involve a sample of retirement beneficiaries whose entitlement began in or after 1984. SSA would send them estimates of their aggregate covered earnings, their aggregate Social Security taxes (including the employer share), and the total amount of benefits paid on their record.
- Requires the study to be conducted within a 2-yearperiod beginning as soon as practicable in 1996 and a report on its results be provided to Congres s within 60 days of its completion. Investment of Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds
- Prohibits the Secretary of the Treasury from refraining from investing Social Security and Medicare Trust Fund monies in Federal securities, and from redeeming securities held by the trust funds, to avoid increasing or to reduce outstanding public debt obligations. Effective March 29, 1996.
Professional Staff for the Social Security Advisory Board
- Authorizes the Social Security Advisory Board to appoint 3 professional staff employees, one of whom is to be appointed from among individuals approved by Advisory Board members who do not belong to the political party represented by the majority of the Board.
Review of Federal Regulations
- Requires that Federal regulations, including some of those issued by SSA, undergo an additional review of their economic impact. This review may be conducted, at various stages of the development of a regulation, by the Small Business Administration, the Courts, and the Congress.