July 26th 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of disability and mandates that people with disabilities receive “equal opportunity” to participate in American life.
The ADA demands equal treatment in employment, public accommodations, transportation, and commercial facilities for 2.67 million Floridians who indicate they have a disability— that’s 13.4 percent of the state’s population.
But how can anyone enjoy an “equal opportunity” to American life without basic financial stability? With 70 percent of working age disabled people unable to find work, combined with the COVID-19 recession, the government must do more to protect the well-being and livelihood of the disabled community.
And yet the Trump administration has done just the opposite. The Social Security Administration recently increased the number of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) that recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) must undergo in order to receive benefits. Adding more CDRs requires applicants to schedule additional comprehensive physical exams, inflates bureaucratic work, and ensures more people will go without benefits.
Reducing the number of SSDI beneficiaries further is absurd, especially in light of the ever-winnowing number of payments that go out: only 37% of applicants are actually approved for benefits. In 2017 over 10,000 people died while on the waiting list for disability insurance.
Even as the SSA reformats SSDI to help fewer people, the Republican party has decided to slash its funding. President Trump’s new short-term payroll tax cut (which defers payroll tax) will have catastrophic implications to SSDI in the long run. According to the Oﬃce of the Chief Actuary, the elimination of payroll taxes will completely defund SSDI by the middle of 2021.
Donald Trump and Republicans are withholding financial assistance that could benefit 2.67 million Floridians. But we’re in the midst of a once-in-a-century catastrophe. We need to be more generous to our neighbors, not less. The SSA should reduce the number of CDRs required of SSDI applicants. President Trump should ensure that funds from the General Fund of the Treasury support SSDI while the payroll tax-rate rests at 0%.