New social security rule will block people that speak limited or no English from getting benefits through the system’s disability insurance program.
The change would remove the “inability to communicate in English” from the list of educational categories that are considered when the Social Security Administration’s administrative law judges determine who qualifies to receive disability insurance through the program.
“It is important that we have an up-to-date disability program,” Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul said.
“The workforce and work opportunities have changed, and outdated regulations need to be revised to reflect today’s world,” he added.
The Hill reported that the new rule, which goes into effect April 27, would remove English speaking as a factor of educational attainment, making it more difficult for non-English speakers to qualify for the aid.
Democrats slammed the decision.
“With this rule, the Trump administration will deny people the Social Security disability benefits they’ve earned,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.
“For years, Social Security’s rules recognized that for an older worker applying for disability benefits with severe health conditions, and with no or little transferable job skills, the inability to communicate in English poses an additional barrier to work. The new rule will end [the Social Security Administration’s] consideration of this obstacle,” he added.
The rule, he estimated, would affect some 10,000 people a year.
According to the SSA, the rule change could reduce total insurance benefits by up to 10,500 claims a year. 6,500 of those would come from Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, or OASDI, a buy-in program funded through taxes. 4,000 more would come from Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, a program that functions more like a welfare benefit.
The SSA claimed that immigrants with higher education (and presumably higher language skills) are increasingly entering the country, rendering the rule superfluous. “Changes in the national workforce since we added this category to our rules in 1978,” the proposal’s summary explains, “demonstrate that this education category is no longer a reliable indicator of an individual’s educational attainment or the vocational impact of an individual’s education.”
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