Social Security Administration headquarters in Baltimore. (Photo: Bloomberg) Social Security Administration headquarters in Baltimore. (Photo: Bloomberg)

The Trump administration plans to issue a proposed rule in June to narrow the eligibility criteria used in assessing vocational factors when approving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits for adults.

The plan is a “significant change that would affect about half of applicants for disability benefits,” Kathleen Romig, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday in an interview.

The proposed rule, which the Trump administration included in its 2019 fall unified regulatory agenda filed at the Office of Management and Budget, “is super focused on a subset of applicants age 50 and above and [those that] have limited skills and education,” Romig said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John Larson, D-Conn., issued a joint statement Monday urging the Trump administration “to reject this cruel proposed rule and reassess” the Social Security Administration’s priorities.

Yet again, the Trump administration “is going out of its way to make life more challenging for the most vulnerable people in our country,” Neal and Larson said, noting that the United States government “already has extremely stringent disability standards.”

Fewer than four in 10 applicants are found eligible for Social Security disability benefits, even after all levels of appeal, Neal and Larson added. “This rule would further restrict eligibility, making it even harder for disabled people to access the essential income they’re qualified to receive.”

The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed a copy of the draft plan, reported that Trump’s plan “would revise eligibility for disability benefits based on age, education and work.”

Those factors determined the eligibility of about 500,000 people in 2017, according to the latest available data, the Journal reported.

The proposed rule “would no longer assume age seriously affects a person’s ability to adapt to simple, entry-level work. It would raise the age at which education and work experience are considered in determining eligibility to 55, from 50. The new rule would also update data on occupational skills that the agency uses to determine eligibility, based on new information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” the Journal reported.

More than 8 million people receive disability payments.

The Journal also reported that the administration is separately considering a proposal “to no longer consider a worker’s inability to speak English when determining whether they can adapt to other work, as well as a rule to require more frequent reviews to determine whether a recipient still qualifies for benefits.”

After the Social Security Administration finalizes the rule, the OMB will review it and potentially revise it. The rule will then be published in the Federal Register, likely in June, for a 60 to 90 day comment period.

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