Paying for Highways on the Backs of People Who Live with Mental Illness: Congress Considers Cuts to Social Security

By Jacob Bradshaw | Jul. 21, 2015

Update: Advocates took action and won: the harmful SSDI provision was removed from the transportation bill.

Many individuals with mental illness depend on social security benefits for partial financial support. Congress is considering cuts to Social Security and other state financial benefits programs as a means of funding a transportation bill. The proposed cuts are embodied in the CUFF Act and similar legislation, and legislation that would cut benefits to people receiving both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Unemployment Insurance (UI).

Current law disqualifies fugitive felons and parole violators from receiving Social Security benefits. However, recent legislation such as the CUFF Act intends to dramatically broaden the scope of the social security disqualification criteria.

The CUFF Act, if passed, would extend to any individual with an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony. This would mean that individuals not yet convicted of any crime would be denied important benefits. It would also penalize individuals with decades old arrest warrants that law enforcement have consistently failed to pursue.

Such a change would endanger the wellbeing of over 100,000 individuals who depend upon Social Security benefits. A considerable number of those affected live with mental illnesses.

The CUFF Act is harmful to low-income individuals living with mental illness, does not provide law enforcement with any information they cannot already access through arrest warrant records and is an unnecessary addition to the law. Many could be left homeless if their social security benefits are removed. Historical precedent shows that the CUFF Act does far more harm than good, and similar policies in the past were abolished for that reason.

Reducing benefits for individuals who receive SSDI and UI similarly harms people in genuine financial need. People who qualify for both benefit programs do so because they have earned those benefits through past work, and because they are unable to provide for themselves without monetary assistance. Because many people who receive SSDI have a mental health based disability, such benefit cuts would negatively impact those in the community who live with mental illness.

Proposed legislation (Senate Bill 499 and Senate Bill 343) would cut off SSDI payments for any month in which an individual is eligible for any UI payments, regardless of whether or not they receive UI. The SSDI and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act of 2015 (S. 499) would further count eligibility for UI as a “Trial Work Period.” This could potentially cancel or suspend their SSDI benefits.

NAMI is joining coalition colleagues in the disability community to oppose this effort to fund the highway bill with cuts to SSDI. We encourage you and others to join us in this effort and contact your Senator and/or House Representative and ask them to oppose this legislation, too.

Funding our roads is important, but not at the cost of leaving tens of thousands of Americans without the financial assistance they need to survive.

Comments
Leslie A
Disability benefits need to increase substantially,because they need to keep up with the ever increasing cost of living. We need to submit our own bill for the many challenged individuals. For example, I wish that they wouldn't take away my benefits, because I work 10 hours a week at minimum wage. It has been therapeutic to be able to contribute to society, finally.
NAMI keep fighting for us.
Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for those of us afflicted with an illness; we are not just lazy, deadbeats.
8/6/2015 2:56:07 AM

Pam Lipshutz
May be the government should have a bake sale or reduce their salaries. Many illnesses hit people in the pocket book. PLEASE DON'T MESS with our way below poverty income. I don't want to be homeless thus raped and murdered. Our lives are hard enough! Please learn to think, as this will destroy lives. Lets keep a democracy to be proud of!
8/5/2015 1:07:10 AM

Margaret
Let us all pray to God, seriously no one has mentioned this yet. God has the power to help the disabled here. If we focus he may deliver us to the best resources on Capitol Hill where we can make a difference. Please pray and believe. Let us be optimistic and graceful here. God bless the disabled.
8/4/2015 9:56:11 PM

Wayne Gottschalk
Why must we always take from those who need help the most. There are so many more places to cut from, just look.
8/1/2015 8:54:48 AM

Murie
I say this, if a cut happens in one area, then they should make provisions in another area so as not to impair needs. If not, maintaining that security is necessary.
7/31/2015 9:32:29 PM

karen martin
7-31-15
If you have ever delt one day with the oppressive saddness and anxiety of loving and trying to help someone with mental illness, you would see the unbelievable pain that a person struggling with mental illness is suffering through. As a healthcare worker and mother of a son with mental illness challenges, I believe it is an appalling and narcissitic society who pays seniors and elderly to get multiple joint replacements and heart surgeries and cancer care to extend their fully lived lives with increased comfort while considering cuts to the meager benefits of mentally ill persons. These meager benefits are the lifeline for so many in the hope to live with dignity and some level of happiness. A truly mentally ill person who can garnish some self respect and confidence from working a few hours a day or week should not be penalized by diminishing their SSDI. Anyone who is misled to believe a mentally ill person is living comfortably on their benefits is entirely out of touch with reality. Anyone in Congress who is not familiar with the truth needs education before making such harmful suggestions. Thank God for NAMI and all the incredible people who fight for and love the mentally ill each day.
7/31/2015 7:38:18 PM

Marnell
Thank you NAMI.
7/31/2015 1:08:59 AM

Todd
I agree with Deanna the Mentally ILL have enough hell to go through without more Washington Red Tape.Dont they have anything better to do than disregard the Handicapped.
7/30/2015 10:18:40 PM

howard joslin
If Congress truly understood what it was like to live on SSDI (all $800 a month after Medicare and dental withheld), they would not touch this earned benefit. Congress should be ashamed. There are much better things to do than r029210ob the mentally ill.
7/30/2015 9:31:14 PM

Karen
I have been reviewed 2 times in the past 6 months!!! They socoal security is messing with my life!! Put anxiety and depression aside I had a tumor in my spinal canal that messed me up!! It's to the point of harassment!!! I was told today I might get reviewed in another six months! I'm on Ssi I own nothing us kids 4 of us inherited my mother's house..we aren't selling it!! I am so upset I called today to try and find out what is going on and why are they just looking at me?!
7/30/2015 4:00:20 PM

Alyse King
This current hard core Congress will stoop low enough to do something that evil while they lavish on tax payers dollars.
7/30/2015 3:53:09 PM

Alyse King
This current hard core Congress will stoop low enough to do something that evil while they lavish on tax payers dollars.
7/30/2015 3:51:44 PM

Joan Caro
All I can say about this is that the two items should not have been on the same bill. We desperately need BOTH safe highways/infrastructure and decent SSDI. How are our Congress people still allowed to mix apples and oranges? This practice should have been abolished long ago. A bill should stand on its own merit!
7/30/2015 11:52:11 AM

Leslie
Thanks NAMI!!
7/30/2015 1:22:02 AM

C V Holloway
It is so said that our government play Russian roulette with human beings. Those with mental illness is not a toy that you just throw away, leave SSDI alone, let those that need it live in peace.
7/30/2015 12:28:05 AM

Mike Rose
We the people really need
to contact our congressmen and women to put a kaosh on these two pieces of legislation on cutting on the
SSDI because the congress want to do this because we need this important legislation to live on and to life.
7/27/2015 3:09:38 PM

linda stegall
people with mental illness can't defend themselves, even soldiers returning from war have post traumatic stress disorder living on disability. let's not now or in the future cosider such a thing as taking money from the mentally ill along with their benefits to care and meds. also, more problems for law enforcement, respectfully yours and supporter of national alliance of the mentally ill. n.a.m.i.
7/24/2015 8:47:34 PM

Dee
I think some of the lawmakers in Washington need therapy.
7/24/2015 4:04:25 PM

Cathy
This is wrong on so many levels! Thank you NAMI for your hard work for us. Cut benefits to the illegals we are paying for. There has to be another way.
7/23/2015 9:17:45 PM

Arnold Cabral
To whom it may cancerned that Works for Nami if your organization is the Biggest Mental Healthcare organization how come you don't have a spot in a Veteran Mental Health on their Property. .......Please reply back
7/23/2015 8:02:04 PM

wendy
Thank u. I would be homeless if this is passed. Plz continue to help those of us with past felony records who are trying just to live
7/23/2015 6:48:50 PM

Jan Correia
I find this wrong on so many levels and find it shameful for congress to be considering this.
7/22/2015 8:55:59 PM

Susan Hastings
It should be, against the Law, to take, money out of one fund o use for another.
7/21/2015 10:16:44 PM

Linda
Thank you NAMI!
7/21/2015 8:59:50 PM

Deanna
My son has scizophraine he doesn't get much but he needs what he gets to survive....please leave the mentally ill alone they have enough to deal with...shame on you....
7/21/2015 6:33:29 PM

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