Changes to the way Supplemental Security Income benefits for people with disabilities are calculated appear to be off the table — for the moment, at least.
White House officials said Wednesday that a proposal to adjust the way that cost-of-living increases are determined for Social Security benefits would exempt SSI and a handful of other programs.
The plan to switch to a formula known as chained CPI to account for inflation in calculating benefits was included in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal intended as a compromise in exchange for Republicans agreeing to tax hikes. But Obama administration officials said that SSI and other means-tested benefits would not be affected.
“I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise — if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans,” Obama said of the deal he’s offered in his budget plan.
Under the proposal, Social Security retirement benefits would be up for discussion but Obama said he would not agree to switch to chained CPI on federal programs like SSI and food stamps.
Chained CPI relies on the idea that people can make small sacrifices to account for cost-of-living increases, selecting to buy bologna or hamburgers instead of steak, for example. If programs are tacked to the method, it would mean lower benefit increases year-over-year.
Advocates for people with disabilities have long been concerned by proposals to switch to chained CPI arguing that many people with disabilities have no room in their budgets for even small cutbacks.
Despite the news that Obama is not proposing changes to SSI, Marty Ford, director of the public policy office at The Arc, said that talk of chained CPI remains worrisome. In particular, she said the proposal still affects the more than one million adults with lifelong disabilities who draw on Social Security benefits through the Disabled Adult Child program, which helps individuals with disabilities whose parents are receiving disability or retirement benefits and after their parent has died.
Under the Obama budget plan, annual increases to beneficiaries of the Disabled Adult Child program would be determined using chained CPI with extra adjustments at the tenth and twenty-fifth years that people draw on the program.
“We have no choice but to continue to call on policymakers to reject the chained CPI,” Ford said.
Beyond Social Security, Obama’s budget calls for repealing the across the board spending cuts implemented under sequestration. Special education funding would remain largely flat under the plan, while vocational rehabilitation would increase by $71.1 million. The president also wants to increase funding for housing for people with disabilities by $20 million.