The presidential election is a year and a-half away, but it's already clear that one of the issues that will be holding center stage will be what should happen with the Social Security Disability Insurance program.
In January we posted about how Congress appeared to have fired the first shot in the brewing battle. Republicans controlling the House passed a rule that would block lawmakers from propping up the SSDI trust fund through a transfer of funds from the Social Security retirement trust fund without major reforms of the system.
In response, the president called for just that kind of a transfer and went further, asking Congress to OK extra funds for enforcement. He says the money is needed to restore the Social Security Administration capability to perform beneficiary reviews and root out fraud.
We're very likely to see a lot of different players fanning the flames of this debate in the coming months. One who stepped up to the fringe of the fire last week was a representative for the Center for American Progress.
She took aim at the proposed 2016 House budget that passed along a party-line vote. She specifically targeted a provision that would prevent SSDI recipients from concurrently collecting unemployment benefits. Supporters of the cuts say they want to prevent double dipping. But the same budget also claims to promote opportunities for SSDI beneficiaries who want to return to work.
The crux of the CAP official's argument is that the two provisions effectively work against each other. She says both SSDI benefits and unemployment are funded in part by the very workers who collect them when they're needed. And she says that blocking SSDI recipients from being able to get benefits they're entitled to, including unemployment if they get laid off from a job, effectively means they're treated differently from other workers.
She says that's not only unfair, but runs counter to the notion of helping people with disabilities find gainful employment. And she says that's a political view that has enjoyed bipartisan support dating all the way back to the days of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.