Skip to content

Chairman Johnson Lays Out Principles for Disability Insurance Reform

February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — In a Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee hearing today, Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) put forth a set of principles that form a commitment to addressing the Disability Insurance trust fund shortfall. Chairman Johnson will use these principles, supported by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), to guide policy solutions this Congress. As Chairman Johnson said during his opening remarks, “This is a commonsense commitment to all Americans.”

The principles form a commitment that Chairman Johnson will:

  • Ensure benefits continue to be paid to individuals with disabilities and their family members that rely on them;

  • Prevent a 20 percent across-the-board benefit cut;

  • Make the Disability Insurance program work better; and

  • Promote opportunity for those trying to return to work.

Full text of Chairman Johnson’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.

“Since becoming Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, I’ve held 14 hearings on the disability program, including the one today which is about maintaining the Disability Insurance Trust Fund’s solvency.  

“And before continuing, I see we have many individuals from the disability community in the audience today. I would like to welcome you all and thank you for coming out today. You know better than most that this program is not without its problems. And in fact less than two years from today, the Disability Insurance program will not have enough money to pay benefits.  

“Now as a subcommittee we’ve looked at this program from nearly every angle. And I think it’s fair to say that this program can and must work better for people with disabilities as well as for the hard working American taxpayer.  

“A few weeks ago, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Chairman Paul Ryan met with members of the disability community, including one of our witnesses today, Mr. Phillips. I wasn’t able to make the meeting but I agree strongly with what my colleagues said: We need to have a conversation—a fact-based conversation—on how to make this program work better.

“During that meeting, the idea of a commitment to you all—the disability community—came up. So as a follow-up to that meeting I want to extend my hand to you all and offer the following commitment that I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me:

  • Ensuring benefits continue to be paid to individuals with disabilities and their family members that rely on them;

  • Preventing a 20 percent across-the-board benefit cut;

  • Making the Disability Insurance program work better; and

  • Promoting opportunity for those trying to return to work.

“This is a commonsense commitment to all Americans. Now, I know the devil is in the details, but I hope all my colleagues, on this subcommittee and especially the Ranking Member, can join me.

“Over the coming months, we are going to have plenty more conversations about the disability program. And as we have these conversations it is my hope that they will not be hijacked by political point scoring. The American people expect us to work together.  

“Today we are going to hear from our witnesses about the options to make sure benefits continue to be paid. They will discuss how Congress has addressed Social Security’s finances in the past and how Social Security’s finances then compare to today.

“Many people have said that we’ve reallocated the payroll tax 11 times. While it is true Congress has shifted the payroll taxes between the two Social Security trust funds, it has happened only 6 times. Moreover Congress has also typically made changes to improve Social Security.  

“Recently, Acting Commissioner Colvin argued for more research into the disability program before making any changes. Well, guess what? That was the same argument in 1994 as well, the last time a reallocation took place.  

“Now some like to say that the President’s proposal to reallocate some of the payroll tax that goes for the retirement programs towards to the disability program is no big deal.

“Well I would argue it is a big deal. The Administration just wants to kick the can down the road and offers no ideas on how to make the program work better. That’s not right.  Americans who have paid into Social Security and are currently receiving benefits as well as today’s younger workers deserve better.  

“This Congress should and must act to make sure that Disability Insurance benefits continue to be paid in 2016 and beyond to those who rely on them. And in doing so we should make this program work better for those who depend on it.  

“I thank our witnesses for being here today and look forward to hearing your testimony.”