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Ryan Opening Statement: Promoting Opportunity for Disability Insurance Beneficiaries

July 09, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on promoting work opportunities for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries.

“So, this is our first, full-committee hearing on Social Security since 2008. And our goal here is to get ahead of the curve. As we all know, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund runs out of money next year. That means, if we do nothing, everybody on the program will see a 20 percent benefit cut.

“Now, Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson has been working on solutions all year. And a few months back, he laid out four principles for reforming DI—all of which I fully endorse: First, no 20 percent cut. Full stop. Not gonna happen. Second, make sure all benefits are paid on time. Third, make the program work better. And fourth, help people who can and want to work get back to work.

“It’s this last point I want to dwell on—because Chairman Johnson and his team have been looking at how to strengthen the DI program. And what they’ve found is, the rules actually make it harder for people to work more.

“Here’s the crux of it: If you make just one dollar more than you’re allowed, you get kicked off the program. In other words, it’s a lot safer to stay on the sidelines. No surprise then that only one half of one percent earn enough to get off the program.

“The program is way too complex. If you want to work—and 40 percent of recipients do—there are all sorts of rules and regulations you have to follow. To give you an idea, here’s a chart on work incentives from Social Security. If looking at this makes your head hurt, you’re not the only one.


“We need to reboot our thinking here. Later this month, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. And I agree that a disability should in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society.

“And that should be the spirit of DI. It will be there for you if you can’t work. But if you want to work, we won’t get in the way. We should recognize everybody has something to offer. Everybody can contribute. And we should encourage that.

“So I want to make clear to members on both sides of the dais. We’re not here to cut DI; we’re here to strengthen DI. That is our mission.

“I also want to thank our witnesses for joining us here today. Every one of you here brings a unique perspective on disability insurance. So I want to thank you again for taking the time to share your expertise.

“And I just want to say to our friends on the other side: We want your ideas. We want to work together. We want to come up with a bipartisan solution. So let’s get to it. With that, I want to recognize the ranking member for his opening statement.”