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Trump trying to tighten SSDI eligibility before leaving office

In early December, the Social Security Administration (SSA) proposed amending the regulations that require the agency to consider the impact of older age on the ability to work when defining disability for purposes of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The rule changes would reportedly eliminate the recognition that older age makes it harder to adjust to new jobs, an amendment likely to reduce the numbers of older Americans eligible for these important benefit programs.

If adopted, the changes could prevent 500,000 people from receiving SSDI who otherwise would have been eligible, according to an opinion piece in The Hill, which cites an earlier leaked version of the proposal.

The Social Security Act, the federal law governing these two disability-based programs, requires that age be a factor considered when analyzing whether a person is disabled for purposes of qualification for SSDI or SSI. The Act gives the SSA the power to create regulations to carry out the purposes of the Act and this is the basis for the current rules.

It is unclear whether the SSA can complete the legal rulemaking process before the new administration begins on Jan. 20, 2021. As of this Dec. 28 writing, it appears that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has the proposal, but it normally would still need to go through the official rulemaking process that includes a period for public commentary before a rule is final.

In The Hill editorial linked to above, the author, who studies Social Security programs, says that the proposal “seems out of touch” and wonders why the administration is trying to increase the number of older workers denied claims by tightening standards, which he considers not to be a “rational policy approach.”