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President Releases Proposed Budget for FY 2020

On March 11, President Trump released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020. While the president’s proposed budget is an important guide to his priorities, federal spending bills must be negotiated and passed by Congress; they often differ significantly from Presidential proposals.

The Fiscal Year 2020 proposed budget for SSA would provide $12.879 billion for SSA’s “limitation on administrative expense” (LAE), which is the amount SSA is allowed to spend from its trust funds for administration. This is more than the $12.742 billion SSA was allowed in Fiscal Year 2019, but SSA has said in the past that it experiences more than $300 million in fixed-cost increases each year, so this will be insufficient to maintain current levels of service. SSA also received an additional $100 million for hearings-level backlog reduction and $45 million for IT modernization in Fiscal Year 2019 that were not included in the 2020 budget request. All together, the 2020 proposed budget estimates that SSA and DDS would provide 2.7% fewer workyears next year compared to this year.

Proposed budgets also include legislative proposals. These are Presidential suggestions to Congress about what bills they should pass. However, most legislative proposals are never introduced as bills, and even those that are rarely become law. Among the legislative proposals in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposals that NOSSCR opposes are:

  • Reducing potential retroactive SSDI benefits from 12 months to 6 months
  • Eliminating direct payment of representative fees with an abolition of the fee cap (it is worth noting that this proposal is estimated to cost SSA money; for this and other reasons Congress chose not to take it up when it was proposed last year)
  • Eliminating travel reimbursements for representatives
  • Excluding SSA debts from discharge in bankruptcy proceedings and increasing debt collection tools for civil monetary penalties
  • Creating a sliding scale that reduces  benefits for families that include multiple SSI recipients
  • Offsetting SSDI when a beneficiary receives unemployment benefits

The budget proposal also includes items that NOSSCR may support, such as certain changes to SSI rules for transition-aged youth, but more details are required and they may become unacceptable if paired with harmful cuts. Similarly, the budget proposal pairs elimination of dedicated accounts for large underpayments of SSI to children with payees and an end to the consideration of whether couples including an SSI beneficiary are “holding out” as married–both of which NOSSCR supports– with harmful changes to the rules about in-kind support and maintenance.

Additional information about the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal will be provided in the March issue of the NOSSCR Forum.

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