WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Fairness for Seniors and People with Disabilities During COVID–19 Act. The bill protects seniors, surviving spouses, children, and people with severe disabilities from being required to repay extra Social Security or SSI benefits they received due to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) suspension of certain work during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also requires SSA to notify beneficiaries who were repaying overpayments prior to the pandemic of the opportunity to temporarily reduce or suspend repayment and protects individuals from retroactive loss of Medicare and Medicaid eligibility when SSA resumes work that had been suspended due to the pandemic.
“The Social Security Administration was right to suspend certain work during the pandemic, in order to protect beneficiaries and SSA employees from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19,” said Brown. “But trying to claw back overpayments made to seniors, surviving spouses, and people with disabilities – in the midst of a pandemic and economic downturn – is cruel, and it only puts them further behind as they try to get by.”
“Our country is in the midst of a public health crisis that has taken the lives of more than 220,000 Americans and has crippled our economy,” said Casey. “As millions of Americans are struggling financially, seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Social Security should not be placed under undue financial burden and forced to come up with money to return overpayments they received through no fault of their own. This is just plain wrong.”
“Seniors and Americans with disabilities should not be penalized due to Social Security’s appropriate focus on processing essential benefits during a health and economic crisis like we’ve never seen before,” said Wyden. “Most of these Americans are living on fixed incomes while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit our economy like a wrecking ball. They can’t afford to face more financial uncertainty.”
In a letter sent to SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul, the senators pushed the administration to suspend Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) in order to protect the health and safety of SSDI and SSI beneficiaries and employees. At Brown and Casey’s request in May, SAA announced it was suspending CDRs. However, on June 29, SAA removed CDRs from their publicly available list of Suspended Workloads. Delaying these reviews is especially important, given that individuals with disabilities and serious, chronic health conditions – putting them at increased COVID-19 risk – primarily make up the SSDI/SSI beneficiary population. In July, Sens. Brown and Casey urged SSA to reconsider its harmful decision to resume CDRs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A House version of the bill was introduced by Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT). It is endorsed by AARP, Alliance for Retired Americans, American Council of the Blind, American Association on Health and Disability, Autism Society of America, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Easterseals, Epilepsy Foundation, Justice in Aging, Lakeshore Foundation, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, NAACP, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Disability Representatives, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Employment Law Project, National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, Social Security Works, and The Arc of the United States.