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ASAN Statement on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the nation’s leading advocacy organization by and for autistic people ourselves, announced today its support for provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) that would help people with disabilities enter the workforce without risking total loss of social security benefits. ASAN opposes other provisions in the bill that would unnecessarily delay eligibility determinations in the already-backlogged social security disability application process.

Currently, people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits face a “cash cliff” that often forces them to limit their working hours and forego opportunities to increase their earnings. After a nine-month “trial” work period, people with disabilities in the workforce risk losing benefits entirely if they earn even a dollar over a set amount in a month – resulting in a sudden and dramatic decrease in their overall income. This sudden loss of benefits can be particularly harmful to people who experience variation in the number of hours they are able to work in a given month.

The current budget proposal would include a demonstration project to “taper” off SSDI benefits by reducing the award by one dollar for every two dollars earned above a certain threshold. This rule, which has already long been applied to people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, would ensure that nobody is punished for working. Not only does this eliminate a major barrier to work, but also enables people to accept new opportunities or increase their work schedule without risking a total loss of the safety net they need.

Another part of the House budget, which would replace trained social security eligibility reviewers with medical doctors, would be a step backward for people with disabilities. People with disabilities, who face staggering unemployment rates, already endure unnecessarily long waiting periods when applying for social security disability benefits. These benefits come with access to health care and other services to increase community integration and access to employment. When SSDI applications already must contain extensive medical documentation, adding an extra layer of review by medical doctors could further delay the eligibility process.

ASAN encourages Congress to pass a fair, comprehensive budget that will safeguard the financial safety net for people with disabilities, while promoting access to employment in the community. For more information, please contact media@autisticadvocacy.org or scrane@autisticadvocacy.org.

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