For over 80 years, Americans have been paying part of their hard-earned wages for Social Security – a program many Americans rely on in their old age for retirement security. But you may not know this: Social Security also helps Americans in the event they become disabled.
As important as Social Security is, the simple fact of the matter is that it is in trouble. Since 2010, the Social Security retirement program has been paying out more in benefits than it has been getting in taxes – there just aren’t enough workers to support retiring Baby Boomers. For instance, in the mid-1950s there were 8.6 workers for each beneficiary. Today there are just 2.8 workers. In other words, the number of beneficiaries is rising much more rapidly than the number of workers – workers who will need to support beneficiaries.
Moreover, history has shown we cannot tax our way to solvency. When Social Security first began, the payroll tax was only 2% on the first $3,000 in wages – which was evenly split between employers and employees. However, the payroll tax rate has since been increased to 12.4%. What’s more, the payroll tax rate now applies on the first $118,500 in wages.
At the end of the day, I firmly believe that the American people are owed a fact-based conversation about fairly and responsibly fixing Social Security for good. As Chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, I am committed to leading this much-needed conversation. Seniors and today’s workers deserve nothing less.
As for the Social Security Disability Insurance program, the Bipartisan Budget Act (H.R. 1314) will ensure that all benefits will be paid through 2022, which includes the nearly 8,000 Collin County folks I represent. Previously, Social Security’s Trustees had warned that come 2016 the program would be unable to pay full benefits. The Bipartisan Budget Act also includes some of my common-sense measures such as ending the use of medical evidence from doctors who have committed fraud, and tougher penalties for those who commit fraud against Social Security. But make no mistake about it, there is more left to do to make this program work better for individuals with disabilities and taxpayers.
I have long held that Congress has a moral responsibility to ensure those with disabilities get their full benefits. At the same time, however, Congress also has the responsibility to address the waste, fraud, and abuse that is plaguing the program and costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Bottom-line: we need to put this program on a sustainable path for the long-term AND ensure that it’s only for those who are truly disabled.
My other priorities as Chairman include: 1) helping to prevent identity theft by better protecting Americans’ Social Security Numbers (SSNs), 2) addressing waste, fraud, and abuse in the disability program, and 3) ensuring that teachers, fire fighters, and police officers are treated just like all other workers when it comes to Social Security.
To learn more about my efforts, you can click on the following bullets to jump down to that portion of the page:
Protecting Americans’ Identity & Social Security Numbers
As Chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, I have made it a top priority of mine to protect Americans’ identities. To that end, I reintroduced H.R. 380, the Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2015 – legislation to end the use of SSNs on Medicare cards. Unfortunately, right now Medicare cards include beneficiaries’ SSNs. While Americans are told not to carry their Social Security cards – and for good reason – Americans are told to carry their Medicare cards with them. This makes absolutely no sense and it puts the over 80,000 Medicare beneficiaries I represent at risk. With seniors already vulnerable to identity theft, the use of SSNs on Medicare cards makes seniors an even more tempting target. You see, the SSN is a key to identity theft. In fact, in 2013 then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott warned seniors that crooks were trying to get them to give out their Medicare numbers.
The good news is that on April 16, 2015, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2, which includes my measure to protect seniors’ identities by ending the use of SSNs on Medicare cards. This is a great victory for America’s seniors!
More recently I’ve introduced H.R. 5320, the Social Security MAIL Act of 2016, that would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to remove SSNs from mailings when their use is unnecessary, and would require the agency to justify any continued use of these numbers. Believe it or not Social Security actually mails documents with individuals’ full SSNs on them, even when it isn’t needed. In fact in 2015 Social Security mailed more than 233 million documents with SSNs on them. What’s more is that Social Security’s Inspector General has found that slightly more than half of the addresses for some of the mailings aren’t right. This makes no sense. This bill that protects Americans’ SSNs was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee by a unanimous voice vote in July 2016.
As part of my commitment to better protecting taxpayer dollars, while at the same time making the disability program work better for those who depend on it, I’ve introduced a number of bills – two of which have become law (H.R. 1936 and H.R. 2359) with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act.
- H.R. 918, Social Security Disability Insurance and Unemployment Benefits Double Dip Elimination Act: Stop individuals from double-dipping by getting both unemployment and disability benefits at the same time.
- H.R. 1795, Promoting Opportunity through Informed Choice Act: Require Social Security to develop online tools to help beneficiaries assess the impact of earnings on eligibility for and benefit amounts of state and Federal programs.
- H.R. 1800, Guiding Responsible and Improved Disability Decisions (GRIDD) Act: Require Social Security to update the 1979 medical-vocational regulatory guidelines for determining disability.
- H.R. 1936, Improving the Integrity of Disability Evidence Act: Require Social Security to only use medical evidence from reputable sources when determining whether an individual is disabled.
- H.R. 2135, Promoting Opportunity for Disability Benefit Applicants Act: Enable Social Security to provide denied applicants information on public and private non-profit employment support services.
- H.R. 2136, Improving the Quality of Disability Decisions Act: Require Social Security to review decisions by Administrative Law Judges.
- H.R. 2359, Disability Fraud Reduction and Unethical Deception (FRAUD) Prevention Act: Strengthen Social Security’s ability to punish those who commit fraud.
Supporting our Public Servants
In order to ensure Collin County and Texas teachers, firefighters, and police officers are treated no differently than other workers when it comes to their Social Security benefits, I’m proud to cosponsor H.R. 711, the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015, which would do away with the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). More specifically, H.R. 711 repeals the WEP, which uses a different and arbitrary formula for public servants, and replaces it with the same formula for all workers.
Just because someone happens to serve the public doesn’t mean that they should be penalized when it comes to their retirement. Unfortunately, many of our public servants who have paid into Social Security are treated unfairly due to the WEP. The men and women who teach our children and protect our communities, at times even putting their lives on the line, work hard – and they deserve to have their work treated the same as every other American who pays into Social Security.