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Rhetoric in Washington suggests SSDI remains a political football

The fate of the Social Security Disability Insurance program is percolating to the surface of debate in Washington again. Not only may individuals in Pennsylvania considering whether to try navigating the SSDI application and appeals process be interested. Those who have already been approved to receive their disability benefits are likely paying close attention, too. 

There's good reason to. As has been widely reported, reserve cash in the trust fund that supports the SSDI benefits program is due to run out by the end of 2016. The implications of that seem to be that the government might not be able to entertain new applications for benefits. And those now receiving help will see benefits cut by nearly 20 percent to keep the fund balanced.

That reality has prompted some interesting activity inside the beltway. At the start of this year, after Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress, the GOP majority in the House passed a rule that would make it harder to reallocate funds from the more-robust Social Security retirement and survivor's benefit trust fund over to SSDI. While that practice has occurred often in the past, Republicans say it's time for that to stop and they say more needs to be done to weed out disability fraud.

The reply from the other side has been President Obama's budget proposal. It includes a call for a 0.9 percent adjustment in how payroll taxes are funneled into the two trust funds. The shift would direct slightly more money into the SSDI program from 2016 to 2020, giving lawmakers a bit more time to come up with a more durable solution.

The plan also calls for directing more funds toward the Continuing Disability Review program. Officials say that program has stalled due to budget cuts and that funding it would greatly reduce fraud.

GOP critics suggest the president's plan is just another kick of the can down the road. But there are others who offer that Republicans are using the issue to gain leverage for a win of the 2016 presidential election.

What do you think?

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