On February 11, the House of Representatives is expected to consider legislation to reform the Social Security representative payee program and enact important reforms to protect the interests of vulnerable SSI and SSDI recipients with mental impairments including severe mental illness.
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their House member and urge them to vote in favor of HR 743 when it comes up for a vote on February 11. Urge them to oppose any effort to delay immediate passage of this important legislation so that it can be sent to President Bush and be signed into law. Remind them that protections are needed for vulnerable SSI and SSDI recipients with mental illnesses who rely on representative payees for their monthly cash benefits. All House offices can be reached can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org.
The Social Security Protection Act (HR 743) has been under development for nearly four years and has already passed the House on three separate occasions. A compromise version passed the Senate late last year. Swift passage in the House will allow the bill to go immediately to the White House for President Bush’s signature.
HR 743 makes important improvements in the representative payee program for beneficiaries of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and the Title II (SSDI) disability programs. It would also require that the Social Security Administration to issue written receipts and establish a centralized computer file for beneficiaries’ reports of earnings or changes in work status.
NAMI strongly supports this legislation as important step to restore integrity of the Representative Payee program and to protect the interests of SSI and SSDI beneficiaries with severe mental illnesses who receive their cash benefits through rep payees. This legislation grew out of severe high profile cases in which institutional representative payees were found to have illegally diverted cash benefits from SSI recipients. In these cases, slow to uncover illegal activity and beneficiaries were prevented from recovering back benefits that were they never received.
NAMI also supports the provisions in HR 743 that would require Social Security to establish a system to issue written receipts for earnings reports submitted by SSDI beneficiaries and a computerized system for tracking earnings. Over the years, SSDI beneficiaries have grown enormously frustrated in their efforts accurately assess whether earnings from part-time work in a given month exceed the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. Because Social Security is often months (if not years) behind in tracking earnings, beneficiaries can inadvertently go above limits in the program go into overpayment status. Issuance of receipts from Social Security for submitted earnings report will help provide a more accurate written record of earnings. Likewise, a computerized tracking system at Social Security will help SSDI beneficiaries track earnings and use of "trial work period" months.
Approximately 8 million SSI and SSDI beneficiaries have representative payees, often family members or friends, who receive the benefits on behalf of the beneficiaries and have a responsibility to manage the benefits on behalf of these beneficiaries. HR 743 includes provisions to strengthen SSA’s ability to address abuses by representative payees. The provisions would:
HR 743 would also make improvements to the attorney fee payment system to help individuals with disabilities gain access to representation by:
The legislation would also further protect Social Security programs and individuals by:
HR 743 would also improve work incentives for individuals with disabilities to return to work by:
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