Scott, Brady Call on SSA to Conduct Demonstrated Project on DI Benefits for Purple Heart Veterans
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Austin Scott (GA-08) and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (TX-08) recently sent a letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul requesting the SSA conduct a demonstrated project focused on improving outcomes for Purple Heart veterans receiving Disability Insurance (DI) benefits who want to try returning to work.
Currently, Purple Heart veterans can lose 100% of their disability insurance if their income exceeds $1,220 per month. This arbitrarily low number impedes Purple Heart veterans rejoining the workforce and/or seeking promotions that could put them over the threshold. In their letter, Rep. Scott and Ranking Member Brady contend that the monthly income threshold for Purple Heart veterans should be equal to that of veterans who sustained combat injuries resulting in blindness ($2,110/month in 2020).
“The SSA currently has expedited processing of disability claims for our Wounded Warriors and those with a 100% Permanent and Total disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once approved for benefits, a veteran has the same rules regarding returning to work as all other DI beneficiaries. Our nation’s Purple Heart recipients deserve better given their personal sacrifices for our country,” wrote the Members.
This request to the SSA builds upon a bill introduced by Rep. Scott which would ensure veterans do not lose their DI due to excelling at their chosen career when they earn income in excess of $1,220 per month. Rep. Scott’s bill, the Purple Heart Freedom to Work Act (H.R. 2655), is supported by the Blind Veterans Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Fleet Reserve Association, and Military Veterans Advocacy. H.R. 2655 is also co-sponsored by sixty Members of the House of Representatives. Click here to read more on Rep. Scott’s bill.
Below is the text of the letter.
June 5, 2020
The Honorable Andrew Saul
Social Security Administration
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235
Dear Commissioner Saul:
We are writing to request the Social Security Administration (SSA) use the demonstration authority provided in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) to conduct a demonstration project focused on improving outcomes for veterans receiving Disability Insurance (DI) benefits who want to try to return to work.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 reauthorized the SSA’s demonstration authority until December 31, 2022, providing the opportunity to test ways to improve the DI program. While the SSA is currently conducting the Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD) project, as required by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, we feel an additional, separate project is necessary.
The SSA currently has expedited processing of disability claims for our Wounded Warriors and those with a 100% Permanent and Total disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once approved for benefits a veteran has the same rules regarding returning to work as all other DI beneficiaries. Our nation’s Purple Heart recipients deserve better given their personal sacrifices for our country.
We ask that the SSA conduct a demonstration project focused on those veterans who are DI beneficiaries and who have received a Purple Heart. The demonstration project should build upon the structure of POD project, using the same offset approach. While we recognize that some Purple Heart recipients could be participating in the POD project, a separate demonstration would be informative for the Congress as we continue to consider ways to improve the DI program’s work incentives. In light of the unique needs of these veterans who have received a Purple Heart, the participants should be able to itemize their impairment related work expenses up to the level of substantial gainful activity for the blind ($2,110 in 2020).
We look forward to your prompt response. If you have any questions, please have your staff contact Jim Dolbow, Military Legislative Assistant for Rep. Austin Scott at 202-225-6531.
Rep. Austin Scott
Rep. Kevin Brady, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means