The Social Security Administration has released a proposed regulation that puts older adults, people with disabilities and people with chronic illnesses at risk of losing crucial benefits. The rule proposes increasing the frequency of a convoluted and burdensome process called continuing disability reviews (CDRs). People with disabilities and chronic illnesses must undergo this extensive review process to receive and keep their disability benefits, which are often their only source of income. Additionally, many people qualify for Medicare and Medicaid on the basis of their disability review, meaning that this change could put access to health coverage in jeopardy. We are especially concerned that the changes in eligibility criteria proposed by this rule could disproportionately affect older adults who cannot work due to their disability, as well as children, those with behavioral health diagnoses, and those with disabilities due to cancer.

A disability review requires extensive documentation and medical evidence. If there is any mistake at any point in the process, people are at risk of completely losing their benefits. Successfully navigating this confusing system is incredibly difficult for people living with disabilities that prevent them from working. For example, it might require them to travel to a doctor’s office on short notice to obtain necessary documentation. In addition to the undue burden extra review processes place on the millions of people trying to access the benefits they are entitled to, frequent disability reviews are invasive and dehumanizing.

The justification for this proposed rule is greater fiscal solvency, but the $1.8 billion dollar cost of implementing this rule is itself a waste of money. SSA already struggles to maintain their existing caseload, which would worsen with the influx of an additional 2.6 million reviews. In the current system, it is common for eligible beneficiaries to wait several years for a review. Implementation of such frequent CDRs would waste SSA resources on unnecessary administrative costs and would result in less people receiving the benefits they desperately need.

Community Catalyst strongly opposes this proposed rule because it takes away critical resources from people with disabilities and complex health needs. We encourage the SSA to devote its finite resources to streamlining the existing process to be more accessible to the community it serves, not stripping away billions of dollars in resources from the people who need it most. We have submitted a public comment in opposition to this rule and will be keeping a close watch on this issue to ensure people with disabilities and complex health conditions can continue to access the benefits they need.