WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and six colleagues today introduced legislation to remove a Social Security work disincentive for Americans with disabilities. The Work Without Worry Act would allow Americans with disabilities to work to their full potential without causing them to lose out on higher Social Security benefits.
“Every individual—disabled or otherwise—deserves the freedom to work without worry to secure their own financial future,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Government programs should never disincentivize an American from bettering their lot in life. We need to fix this.”
“Americans with disabilities and their families should not lose out on their earned benefits Social Security for seeking to work to their full potential,” said Senator Wyden. “Working families deserve the peace of mind that they will not lose out on their Social Security benefit in the future just because they want to work, and this bill would provide exactly that. I will work tirelessly to get this bill over the finish line.”
If an adult has a severe medical condition that began before age 22, they may be eligible for a Social Security benefit called the Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit. Their benefits are based on their parent’s Social Security earnings, in the same way that benefits of a child under age 18 would be. However, under current law some of these young adults fear that if they try to work they will lose future DAC benefits, which are often higher than any benefit they may qualify on their own. This fear inhibits the ability of Americans with disabilities to explore their ability to work as they transition to adult life.
The Work Without Worry Act promotes financial security by ensuring that any earnings from work – no matter how much – will not prevent an individual from receiving a Social Security DAC benefit from their parent’s work history if they have an eligible medical condition that began before age 22. This bill treats all individuals with severe medical conditions that began before age 22 the same – no matter when their parents claim Social Security benefits. This change is estimated to increase Social Security benefits by $100 million and improve the lives of nearly 2,000 individuals with disabilities over the next 10 years.
Cassidy and Wyden were joined by U.S. Senators Ted Budd (R-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
Organizations that have endorsed the bill include The Arc, American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), National Down Syndrome Congress, Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), Justice in Aging, American Association on Health and Disability, Lakeshore Foundation, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR), Special Needs Alliance, National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR), Autism Society of America, and the Disability Rights Education Fund.
Andrew Schlesinger, the New Orleans resident who helped inspire the bill, has spina bifida and is on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Although he has multiple college degrees, SSI prohibits him from having more $2,000 in his bank account at any time. This prevents Mr. Schlesinger from accepting a high-paying job in fear of losing this government assistance, which enables him to afford his medical bills.