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‘A national disgrace’: Trump proposes Social Security change that could end disability benefits for hundreds of thousands

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“The Trump administration is attacking another vulnerable population: those who are disabled and receiving Social Security Disability benefits.”

Activists are working to raise public awareness and outrage over a little-noticed Trump administration proposal that could strip life-saving disability benefits from hundreds of thousands of people by further complicating the way the Social Security Administration determines who is eligible for payments.

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The proposed rule change was first published in the Federal Register last month but has received scarce attention in the national media. Last week, the Social Security Administration extended the public comment period on the proposal until January 31, 2020.

“This is not over. We will all need to mobilize.”
—Peter Morley, patient advocate

“The Trump administration is attacking another vulnerable population: those who are disabled and receiving Social Security Disability benefits,” tweeted patient advocate Peter Morley, who lobbies Congress on healthcare issues. “This is a national disgrace.”

“This is not over,” said Morley. “We will all need to mobilize.”

The process for receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is already notoriously complicated, and the Trump administration is attempting to add yet another layer of complexity that critics say is aimed at slashing people’s benefits.

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As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week, “those already receiving disability benefits are subject to so-called continuing disability reviews, which determine whether they are still deserving of compensation for an injury, illness, or other incapacitating problem as their lives progress.”

Currently, beneficiaries are placed in three separate categories based on the severity of their disability: “Medical Improvement Not Expected,” “Medical Improvement Expected,” and “Medical Improvement Possible.” People with more severe medical conditions face less frequent disability reviews.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would another category called “Medical Improvement Likely,” which would subject beneficiaries to disability reviews every two years.

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According to the Inquirer, “an estimated 4.4 million beneficiaries would be included in that designation, many of them children and so-called Step 5 recipients, an internal Social Security classification.”

Step 5 recipients, the Inquirer noted, “are typically 50 to 65 years of age, in poor health, without much education or many job skills [and] often suffer from maladies such as debilitating back pain, depression, a herniated disc, or schizophrenia.”

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“This seems like the next iteration of the Trump administration’s continued efforts to gut Social Security benefits.”
—Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.)

Jennifer Burdick, supervising attorney with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, said placing Step 5 recipients in the new “Medical Improvement Likely” category and subjecting them to reviews every two years would represent “a radical departure from past practice.”

Kate Lang, senior attorney at the non-profit group Justice in Aging, told the Inquirer that the Trump administration is “out to shrink the rolls.”

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“And they’re setting people up to not comply,” said Lang.

In addition to lack of coverage from the national media, most members of Congress have also been relatively quiet about the Trump administration’s proposal.

Two Pennsylvania Democrats—Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Brendan Boyle—condemned the proposed rule change in statements to the Inquirer.

The proposal, said Casey, “appears to be yet another attempt by the Trump administration to make it more difficult for people with disabilities to receive benefits.”

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Boyle said the “changes seem arbitrary, concocted with no evidence or data to justify such consequential modifications.”

“This seems like the next iteration of the Trump administration’s continued efforts to gut Social Security benefits,” Boyle added.


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DOJ investigating why consumers are paying record prices for beef during pandemic: report

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On Monday, Politico reported that the Justice Department and Agriculture Department are looking into what they consider to be suspicious price increases of beef for American consumers — on the suspicion that the recent spike in prices may be a result of price-fixing.

"Supermarket customers are paying more for beef than they have in decades during the coronavirus pandemic," reported Leah Nylen and Liz Crampton. "But at the same time, the companies that process the meat for sale are paying farmers and ranchers staggeringly low prices for cattle."

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Democrats win another voting rights victory as absentee restrictions struck down in South Carolina

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On Monday, voting rights attorney Marc Elias reported that a federal court has blocked a restriction on absentee ballots for the upcoming South Carolina primary.

The ruling undoes a requirement that mail-in ballots be accompanied by a witness.

BREAKING: @DCCC, @TheDemocrats, and @scdp score major voting rights victory in South Carolina. Federal Court blocks witness requirement for absentee ballots in June primary.

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GOP ripped for refusing to remove Trump from office: ‘Folly of that failure becomes clearer by the day’

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Republicans seeking to keep control of the United States Senate were harshly criticized by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for failing to remove President Donald Trump from office during impeachment.

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