Letter to Congressional Leaders on the Social
Security System --May 21, 1981
Over the past several weeks, all Americans have been proud of the
bipartisan spirit that we have created in working on the nation's
economic recovery. Today I am writing to you to ask that we now
bring that same spirit to bear on another issue threatening our
As you know, the Social Security System is teetering on the edge
of bankruptcy. Over the next five years, the Social Security trust
fund could encounter deficits of up to $111 billion, and in the
decades ahead its unfunded obligations could run well into the trillions.
Unless we in government are willing to act, a sword of Damocles
will soon hang over the welfare of millions of our citizens.
Last week, Secretary Richard Schweiker presented a series of Administration
proposals that we believe are sound, sensible solutions, both in
the short and long term. We recognize that Members of Congress on
both sides of the aisle have alternative answers. This diversity
is healthy--so long as it leads to constructive debate and then
to an honest legislative response.
As Secretary Schweiker has pointed out on several occasions, we
believe that all of us owe an obligation to our senior citizens
to work together on this issue. This Administration is not wedded
to any single solution; this Administration welcomes the opportunity
to consult with Congress and with private groups on this matter.
Our sole commitment--and it is a commitment we will steadfastly
maintain--is to three basic principles:
--First, this nation must preserve the integrity of the Social
Security trust fund and the basic benefit structure that protects
--Second, we must hold down the tax burden on the workers who support
--Finally, we must eliminate all abuses in the system that can
rob the elderly of their rightful legacy.
It is clear that the half-actions of the past are no longer sufficient
for the future. It is equally clear that we must not let partisan
differences or political posturing prevent us from working together.
Therefore, I have today asked Secretary Schweiker to meet with
you and other leaders of the Congress as soon as possible to launch
a bipartisan effort to save Social Security. I have also asked him
to make the full resources of his department available for this
undertaking. And of course, you can count on my active support of
None of us can afford to underestimate the seriousness of the problems
facing Social Security. For generations of Americans, the future
literally rests upon our actions. This should be a time for statesmanship
of the highest order, and I know that no one shares that desire
more strongly than you.
With every good wish,
Letter to Congressional Leaders About the Social Security System
--July 18, 1981
The highest priority of my Administration is restoring the integrity
of the Social Security System. Those 35 million Americans who depend
on Social Security expect and are entitled to prompt bipartisan
action to resolve the current financial problem.
At the same time, I deplore the opportunistic political maneuvering,
cynically designed to play on the fears of many Americans, that
some in the Congress are initiating at this time. These efforts
appear designed to exploit an issue rather than find a solution
to the urgent Social Security problem. They would also have the
unfortunate effect of disrupting the budget conference and reversing
the actions of a majority of both Houses of the Congress. Such a
result would jeopardize our economic recovery program so vital to
the well-being of the Nation.
In order to tell the American people the facts, and to let them
know that I shall fight to preserve the Social Security System and
protect their benefits, I will ask for time on television to address
the Nation as soon as possible.
During this address, I will call on the Congress to lay aside partisan
politics, and join me in a constructive effort to put Social Security
on a permanently sound financial basis as soon as the 97th Congress
returns in September.
3. Address to the Nation on the Program
for Economic Recovery, September 24, 1981
Now, if you'll permit me, I'd like to turn to another subject which
I know has many of you very concerned and even frightened. This
is an issue apart from the economic reform package that we've just
been discussing, but I feel I must clear the air. There has been
a great deal of misinformation and, for that matter, pure demagoguery
on the subject of social security.
During the campaign, I called attention to the fact that social
security had both a short and a long-range fiscal problem. I pledged
my best to restore it to fiscal responsibility without in any way
reducing or eliminating existing benefits for those now dependent
To all of you listening, and particularly those of you now receiving
social security, I ask you to listen very carefully: first to what
threatens the integrity of social security, and then to a possible
Some 30 years ago, there were 16 people working and paying the
social security payroll tax for every 1 retiree. Today that ratio
has changed to only 3.2 workers paying in for each beneficiary.
For many years, we've known that an actuarial imbalance existed
and that the program faced an unfunded liability of several trillion
Now, the short-range problem is much closer than that. The social
security retirement fund has been paying out billions of dollars
more each year than it takes in, and it could run out of money before
the end of 1982 unless something is done. Some of our critics claim
new figures reveal a cushion of several billions of dollars which
will carry the program beyond 1982. I'm sure it's only a coincidence
that 1982 is an election year.
The cushion they speak of is borrowing from the Medicare fund and
the disability fund. Of course, doing this would only postpone the
day of reckoning. Alice Rivlin of the Congressional Budget Office
told a congressional committee, day before yesterday, that such
borrowing might carry us to 1990, but then we'd face the same problem.
And as she put it, we'd have to cut benefits or raise the payroll
tax. Well, we're not going to cut benefits, and the payroll tax
is already being raised.
In 1977 Congress passed the largest tax increase in our history.
It called for a payroll tax increase in January of 1982, another
in 1985, and again in 1986 and in 1990. When that law was passed
we were told it made social security safe until the year 2030. But
we're running out of money 48 years short of 2030.
For the nation's work force, the social security tax is already
the biggest tax they pay. In 1935 we were told the tax would never
be greater than 2 percent of the first $3,000 of earnings. It is
presently 13.3 percent of the first $29,700, and the scheduled increases
will take it to 15.3 percent of the first $60,600. And that's when
Mrs. Rivlin says we would need an additional increase.
Some have suggested reducing benefits. Others propose an income
tax on benefits, or that the retirement age should be moved back
to age 68. And there are some who would simply fund social security
out of general tax ilunds, as welfare is funded. I believe there
are better solutions.
I am asking the Congress to restore the minimum benefit for current
beneficiaries with low incomes. It was never our intention to take
this support away from those who truly need it. There is, however,
a sizable percentage of recipients who are adequately provided for
by pensions or other income and should not be added to the financial
burden of social security.
The same situation prevails with regard to disability payments.
No one will deny our obligation to those with legitimate claims,
but there's widespread abuse of the system which should not be allowed
Since 1962 early retirement has been allowed at age 62 with 80
percent of full benefits. In our proposal we ask that early retirees
in the future receive 55 percent of the total benefit, but-and this
is most important-those early retirees would only have to work an
additional 20 months to be eligible for the 80-percent payment.
I don't believe very many of you were aware of that part of our
The only change we proposed for those already receiving social
security had to do with the annual cost-of-living adjustment. Now,
those adjustments are made on July 1st each year, a hangover from
the days when the fiscal year began in July. We proposed a one-time
delay in making that adjustment, postponing it for 3 months until
October 1st. From then on it would continue to be made every 12
months. That onetime delay would not lower your existing benefits
but would, on the average, reduce your increase by about $86 one
time next year.
By making these few changes, we would have solved the short- and
long-range problems of social security funding once and for all.
In addition, we could have canceled the increases in the payroll
tax by 1985. To a young person just starting in the work force,
the savings from canceling those increases would, on the average,
amount to $33,000 by the time he or she reached retirement, and
compound interest, add that, and it makes a tidy nest egg to add
to the social security benefits.
However, let me point out, our feet were never imbedded in concrete
on this proposal. We hoped it could be a starting point for a bipartisan
solution to the problem. We were ready to listen to alternatives
and other ideas which might improve on or replace our proposals.
But, the majority leadership in the House of Representatives has
refused to join in any such cooperative effort.
I therefore am asking, as I said, for restoration of the minimum
benefit and for inter-fund borrowing as a temporary measure to give
us time to seek a permanent solution. To remove social security
once and for all from politics, I am also asking Speaker Tip O'Neill
of the House of Representatives and Majority Leader in the Senate
Howard Baker to each appoint five members, and I will appoint five,
to a task force which will review all the options and come up with
a plan that assures the fiscal integrity of social security and
that social security recipients will continue to receive their full
I cannot and will not stand by and see financial hardship imposed
on the more than 36 million senior citizens who have worked and
served this Nation throughout their lives. They deserve better from
Well now, in conclusion, let me return to the principal purpose
of this message, the budget and the imperative need for all of us
to ask less of government, to help to return to spending no more
than we take in, to end the deficits, and bring down interest rates
that otherwise can destroy what we've been building here for two
centuries. . . .
4. Statement on Signing
Social Security Legislation --December 29, 1981
I have signed into law H.R. 4331, a bill that substantially incorporates
the social security changes which I urged in my address of September
24 to the nation--restoration of the minimum benefit for people
receiving that benefit, and interfund borrowing to tide the system
over while the new National Commission on Social Security Reform
develops a bipartisan plan to achieve long-lasting solutions to
social security's financing problems.
I commend the Congress for its action on this bill, especially
the chairmen and members of the House Committee on Ways and Means
and Senate Committee on Finance.
There is no more important domestic issue on which we have to have
a national consensus than social security, because it affects just
about all of us either as current beneficiaries or current taxpayers.
Continuing the minimum benefit for present beneficiaries reflects
a bipartisan consensus, which I strongly support.
We all know that interfund borrowing is just a temporary solution
to the financing difficulties ahead for social security, which are
real and serious. The bill authorizes interfund borrowing until
the end of 1982 the same time the new National Commission on Social
Security Reform is scheduled to report its recommendations.
I am determined that we put social security back on a sound financial
footing and restore the confidence and peace of mind of the American
public in its social security system. That is the reason for the
National Commission which I proposed in September and the members
of which Majority Leader Baker, Speaker O'Neill, and I have just
selected. I am confident that after they have reviewed all the options
and agreed on a plan to assure the fiscal integrity of social security,
the administration and the Congress will work together swiftly to
enact legislation to restore the financial soundness of the social
I believe that we should build any social security rescue plan
around three very basic principles:
First, we must preserve the integrity of the trust funds
and the basic social security benefit structure.
Second, we must eliminate abuses within the system and
elements of the system which duplicate other programs, both of which
could rob beneficiaries of their hard-earned benefits.
Third, we must hold down the tax burden on current and
I believe in those principles, and I think that a great majority
of the American people believe in them, too.
I believe in the social security system. I believe that it will
survive and keep its promise to this generation of beneficiaries
and those to come.
5. Statement on Signing
Black Lung Program Reform Legislation--December 29, 1981
I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 5159, which contains the "Black
Lung Benefits Revenue Act of 1981" and the "Black Lung
Benefits Amendments of 1981." This bill embodies this administration's
comprehensive black lung reform proposals.
I commend the Members of the Congress on both sides of the aisle
who steered this bill to passage. I am gratified that the bill represents
the combined efforts of the coal industry, the insurance industry,
and organized labor, especially the United Mine Workers, in working
with the administration to achieve needed improvements in the black
A major purpose of this legislation is to restore solvency to the
Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. At present, the Fund has a deficit
of approximately $1.5 billion. With no change in the law, the deficit
would climb to $7 billion over the next 10 years. The bill addresses
the revenue side of this problem by temporarily doubling the excise
taxes on coal producers, but requiring that those rates revert to
their present levels when the Fund becomes fully solvent, and in
no case later than the end of 1995.
The bill also addresses eligibility criteria and benefit payments
for the black lung program. These changes are needed to assure that
the black lung program will provide adequate workers compensation
benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease, while
reducing the potential for substantial abuses.
I hope and expect that the spirit of cooperation between labor,
industry, and the administration in enacting this important bill
will continue in the coming months.
6. Letter to the Chairman
and Members of the National Commission on Social Security Reform
--February 27, 1982
Dear Chairman Greenspan and Commission Members:
As you convene for the first time today, the Nation will be watching
with great interest the work and progress of the National Commission
on Social Security Reform. As I wrote to you at the time you agreed
to serve, I can think of no more important domestic problem requiring
resolution than restoring the integrity of Social Security and to
do so without penalty to those dependent on the programs.
Every American, of every age, has an important stake in the success
of your work. Each of you comes to this Commission from a position
in government or the private sector through which you can make possible
the successful implementation of a truly bipartisan solution to
this great national problem.
This Commission is the product of the leadership of both parties
of both houses of the Congress as much as it is mine. Therefore,
on behalf of all Americans I wish you success as you begin your
on Receiving the Recommendations of the National Commission on Social
Security Reform --January 15, 1983
Speaker of the House O'Neill, Majority Leader Baker, and I have
today received from the commission on social security a "Recommended
Bi-Partisan Solution to the Social Security Problem" (summary
This bipartisan solution would solve the social security problem
defined by the Commission. It is my understanding that the Speaker
and the majority leader find this bipartisan solution acceptable.
Each of us recognizes that this is a compromise solution. As such,
it includes elements which each of us could not support if they
were not part of a bipartisan compromise. However, in the interest
of solving the social security problem promptly, equitably, and
on a bipartisan basis, we have agreed to support and work for this
I look forward to the Congress beginning consideration of this
package through hearings before the House Ways and Means Committee
on February 1. I believe the American people will welcome this demonstration
of bipartisan cooperation in offering a solution that can keep a
fundamental cooperative and responsible manner in trust, while solving
a fundamental national problem.
I wish to thank the members of the Commission, and especially Chairman
Greenspan, for their tireless effort and for the cooperative and
responsible manner in which they have met a most difficult challenge.
Executive Order 12402--National Commission on Social Security
Reform --January 15, 1983
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution
and laws of the United States of America, and specifically the Federal
Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App. I), it is hereby
ordered that Section 2(b) of Executive Order No. 12335, as amended,
establishing the National Commission on Social Security Reform,
is hereby further amended to provide as follows:
"The Commission shall make its report to the President by
January 20, 1983."
The White House,
January 15, 1983.
on House of Representatives Approval of Social Security Legislation
--March 10, 1983
I want to take this opportunity to express my admiration--and the
gratitude of the American people--for the responsible, bipartisan
spirit the House of Representatives has demonstrated in its prompt
passage of the bipartisan plan to save the social security system.
I am particularly glad to have had the chance this afternoon to
personally thank six leaders who played special roles in making
this possible: Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Minority Leader
Bob Michel, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, the senior
minority member of the committee, Barber Conable, Chairman Jake
Pickle of the Subcommittee on Social Security, and, of course, Representative
In the months leading up to this critical vote--and again over
the past 24 hours-- we've seen men and women of both parties and
many shades of opinion set aside their differences and join together
for the good of the country. The result has been a new lease on
life for one of our most basic government programs, social security--a
program that, directly or indirectly, affects the present and future
well-being of every man woman, and child in America, and generations
Over long months of study, debate, and deliberation--and in close
cooperation with the executive branch--a fair, workable plan to
save the system was hammered out by the National Commission on Social
Security Reform. All of us had to make some compromises and settle
for less than what any one faction might consider ideal. But we
did it, and, as Speaker O'Neill promised, the House of Representatives
has acted promptly and responsibly to pass the resulting bipartisan
That is an achievement we can all take heart from. And I hope and
believe it reflects a bipartisan spirit of putting people before
party that will guide us all in meeting other national challenges
in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, I look forward to prompt action in the Senate on the
social security plan--and I look forward to a signing ceremony in
the very near future.
on Proposed Social Security and Unemployment Benefits Legislation
--March 22, 1983
One of the most important pieces of legislation to be considered
by the Congress this year is being held hostage by a small but highly
funded and organized special interest group.
Until a few days ago, it appeared that an omnibus bill to make
social security solvent and extend supplemental unemployment benefits
would be enacted this week. I would have gladly signed this vital
measure to relieve legitimate worries about the economic security
of so many.
Now, however, a selfish special interest group and its congressional
allies are attempting to make this vital economic security bill
a legislative hostage. But let me make absolutely clear that an
unrelated rider amendment--based on a campaign of distortion and
designed to prove that the banks and other financial institutions
can still have their own way in Washington--has no place in the
bill pending before the Senate.
We should not accept an amendment designed to prevent the collection
of taxes that are already owed on interest and dividends, even if
the financial institutions find it inconvenient.
This morning, I have strongly urged the leadership of the Senate
to take whatever steps may be needed to free the economic security
bill from this blatant attempt at legislative hostage taking. The
social security and unemployment insurance lifeline that extends
to millions of Americans across the breadth and width of our land
cannot be permitted to be severed by the obstructionist tactics
of a Washington lobby and its congressional friends. As I said last
week, it would be far better if the bankers spent less time lobbying
and more time lowering interest rates.
on Signing the Social Security Amendments of 1983 --April
The President. Well, I want to extend to all of you a
very warm welcome. Something ought to be warm. [Laughter]
But it's especially fitting that so many of us from so many different
backgrounds--young and old, the working and the retired, Democrat
and Republican--should come together for the signing of this landmark
This bill demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment
to social security. It assures the elderly that America will always
keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It
assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact
with the future. From this day forward, they have our pledge that
they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.
And this bill assures us of one more thing that is equally important.
It's a clear and dramatic demonstration that our system can still
work when men and women of good will join together to make it work.
Just a few months ago, there was legitimate alarm that social security
would soon run out of money. On both sides of the political aisle,
there were dark suspicions that opponents from the other party were
more interested in playing politics than in solving the problem.
But in the eleventh hour, a distinguished bipartisan commission
appointed by House Speaker O'Neill, by Senate Majority Leader Baker,
and by me began, to find a solution that could be enacted into law.
Political leaders of both parties set aside their passions and
joined in that search. The result of these labors in the Commission
and the Congress are now before us, ready to be signed into law,
a monument to the spirit of compassion and commitment that unites
us as a people.
Today, all of us can look each other square in the eye and say,
"We kept our promises." We promised that we would protect
the financial integrity of social security. We have. We promised
that we would protect beneficiaries against any loss in current
benefits. We have. And we promised to attend to the needs of those
still working, not only those Americans nearing retirement but young
people just entering the labor force. And we've done that, too.
None of us here today would pretend that this bill is perfect.
Each of us had to compromise one way or another. But the essence
of bipartisanship is to give up a little in order to get a lot.
And, my fellow Americans, I think we've gotten a very great deal.
A tumultuous debate about social security has raged for more than
two decades in this country; but there has been one point that has
won universal agreement: The social security system must be preserved.
And rescuing the system has meant reexamining its original intent,
purposes, and practical limits.
The amendments embodied in this legislation recognize that social
security cannot do as much for us as we might have hoped when the
trust funds were overflowing. Time and again, benefits were increased
far beyond the taxes and wages that were supposed to support them.
In this compromise we have struck the best possible balance between
the taxes we pay and the benefits paid back. Any more in taxes would
be an unfair burden on working Americans and could seriously weaken
our economy. Any less would threaten the commitment already made
to this generation of retirees and to their children.
We're entering an age when average Americans will live longer and
live more productive lives. And these amendments adjust to that
progress. The changes in this legislation will allow social security
to age as gracefully as all of us hope to do ourselves, without
becoming an overwhelming burden on generations still to come.
So, today we see an issue that once divided and frightened so many
people now uniting us. Our elderly need no longer fear that the
checks they depend on will be stopped or reduced. These amendments
protect them. Americans of middle age need no longer worry whether
their career-long investment will pay off. These amendments guarantee
it. And younger people can feel confident that social security will
still be around when they need it to cushion their retirement.
These amendments reaffirm the commitment of our government to the
performance and stability of social security. It was nearly 50 years
ago when, under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the
American people reached a great turning point, setting up the social
security system. F.D.R. spoke then of an era of startling industrial
changes that tended more and more to make life insecure. It was
his belief that the system can furnish only a base upon which each
one of our citizens may build his individual security through his
own individual efforts. Today we reaffirm Franklin Roosevelt's commitment
that social security must always provide a secure and stable base
so that older Americans may live in dignity.
And now before I sign this legislation, may I pause for a moment
and recognize just a few of the people here who've done so much
to make this moment possible. There are so many deserving people
here today--leaders of the Congress, all members of the Ways and
Means and Finance Committees, and members of the Commission, up
in front here, but it would be impossible to recognize them all.
But, first, can I ask Alan Greenspan and members of the Commission--I
was going to say to stand--[laughter]--but there are others
that are also standing here--but the other members of the Commission
to stand so that we can recognize them. Thank you. And their Chairman,
And, now, as a special treat, I would like to ask two of our leaders
from Congress-- first to step forward for a few words, Speaker of
the House of Representatives, the Honorable Tip O'Neill.
Speaker O'Neill. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, my
distinguished colleagues in government, this is indeed a happy day.
There are those who would question as to whether or not the social
security bill was the most important bill that ever did pass the
Congress of the United States. Others would say there were other
acts. But I always believed the social security system was the greatest
act that ever passed the Congress. It gave respect and it gave dignity
to the golden-ager of America.
This great country of ours has always gone on the theory that each
generation pays for the generation before it. The golden-agers of
today are the ones who made America great.
I want to congratulate the committee that the President appointed,
that I appointed, that Senator Baker appointed. I want to congratulate
the Ways and Means Committee--Jake Pickle was the chairman of the
subcommittee, Dan Rostenkowski, Barber Conable, all of the committee--Senator
Pepper from the Aging Committee, all worked together on both sides
of the aisle. It shows, as the President said, the system does work.
This is a happy day for America.
The President. Thank you.
And, now, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Howard Baker.
Senator Baker. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, my colleagues
on the platform, and ladies and gentlemen:
It is perhaps one of the littlest noticed but most important aspects
of the civility of American Government that on occasion we rise
above politics: we rise above confrontation; and we address, on
a bipartisan basis the great challenges and issues that confront
the Republic. Sometimes it's been on issues of war and peace. Sometimes
it has been on issues of the rights and opportunities of minorities
and individuals within our country, once on the salvation of the
But there's a canny understanding in the American political system
that sometimes there are issues that are more important than any
of us, or perhaps all of us, taken together. The preservation of
the social security system is one of those issues. And in the uniquely
American way, those of us who participate in government, Republicans
and Democrats together, public and private citizens, gathered together
and subordinated our own views to those of the welfare of the majority.
Mr. President, I commend you, sir. I commend the members of this
Commission. I commend my colleagues in the Congress, the committees
directly involved, and those members who are so intimately involved
in this sensitive political issue on a successful conclusion of
another chapter in the real greatness of the American political
system; that is, the subordination of our own particular political
ambition in favor of the greater good.
I thank you
The President. Thank you, gentlemen. And thank all of
you for being with us today.
I know some of you've come long distances just to participate in
this ceremony. We have shared an historic moment, for in signing
these amendments into law, we've restored some much needed security
to an uncertain world.
And I am now going over and sign, and as you can notice how cold
it is, 12 pens there; they're too cold--they can only sign one letter,
each pen. [Laughter] If my name came out to 13 letters,
I would have misspelled it.
It is signed.
on Signing the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984
--October 9, 1984
I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 3755, the Social Security Disability
Benefits Reform Act of 1984. This legislation, which has been formulated
with the support of the administration and passed by unanimous vote
in both Houses of Congress, should restore order uniformity, and
consensus in the disability program. It maintains our commitment
to treat disabled American citizens fairly and humanely while fulfilling
our obligation to the Congress and the American taxpayers to administer
the disability program effectively.
When I took office on January 20, 1981, my administration inherited
the task of implementing the continuing disability reviews required
by the 1980 Disability Amendments which had been enacted and signed
into law during the previous administration. Soon after the Department
of Health and Human Services began the mandatory reviews, we found
that trying to implement the new law's requirements within the framework
of the old, paper-oriented review process was causing hardships
for beneficiaries. Accordingly, back in 1982, the Department began
a long series of administrative reforms designed to make the disability
review process more humane and people-oriented. These reforms included
providing face-to-face meetings between beneficiaries and Social
Security Administration (SSA) claims representatives at the very
start of the review process.
These initial steps were followed by further important reforms
announced by Secretary Heckler in June of 1983, including:
classifying additional beneficiaries as permanently disabled, thus
exempting them from the 3-year review;
temporarily exempting from review two-thirds of cases of individuals
with mental impairments while the decisionmaking standards were
being revised; and
accelerating a top-to-bottom review of disability policies by SSA
and appropriate outside experts.
While those June 1983 reforms went a long way towards humanizing
the process, by the spring of 1984, it became apparent that legislation
was needed to end the debate and confusion over what standard should
be used in conducting continuing disability reviews. The administration
worked with the Congress to develop this consensus legislation and,
in the interim, took the additional step of suspending the periodic
disability reviews pending implementation of new disability legislation.
One indication of the complexity of the issues involved is the
fact that Congress held more than 40 hearings on the disability
review process over a 3-year period before arriving at a consensus
on this legislation.
One significant provision of H.R. 3755 is the so-called medical
improvement standard that sets forth the criteria SSA must apply
when deciding whether a disability beneficiary is still disabled.
The standard this new legislation would establish for future determinations
will restore the uniformity that is so essential to a nationwide
Another provision in H.R. 3755 would extend temporarily the ability
of a Social Security disability beneficiary who has decided to appeal
a decision that his disability has ended to have benefits continued
up to the decision of an administrative law judge. This will prevent
undue hardship to beneficiaries who are found on appeal to be still
disabled while the new law is being put in place.
In addition, the legislation places a desirable moratorium on reviews
to determine whether individuals with mental impairments are still
disabled until revised criteria for evaluating these impairments
are published. The Department of Health and Human Services has been
working with mental health experts on these criteria.
Several other changes are written into this new law that will clarify
and expedite the administration of the disability program.
I have asked Secretary Heckler to implement the provisions of this
legislation as speedily and as fairly as possible. The Department
of Health and Human Services will act promptly in reviewing individual
cases so that no disabled beneficiary has to wait any longer than
necessary for the proper decision on his or her case.