Schakowsky Introduces Legislation To Help Seniors And People With Disabilities Access Critical Benefits Amid COVID-19
EVANSTON, IL – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Co-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families (TFAF), announced the introduction of the COVID-19 Recovery for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act of 2020, H.R. 6951. She was joined by the rest of the TFAF leadership. As the pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on America’s older Americans, their families and caregivers, this measure would make additional investments in our nation’s most vulnerable populations’ access to quality health care, food security and financial security. A similar version of the bill, H.R. 6951, was introduced last week in the Senate (S.3740) by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Doug Jones (D-AL).
House Democrats’ Task Force on Aging & Families is led by Co-Chairs Schakowsky (D-IL), as well as Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) in addition to Vice Chairs Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), all original co-sponsors of the COVID-19 Recovery for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act of 2020.
“House Democrats are guided by our belief that all Americans across our vibrant nation deserve the chance to age with dignity, health and security, no matter who they are, where they live, or whether they are aging in place or in a long-term care setting,” said the Task Force on Aging & Families leadership in a joint statement. “This comprehensive pandemic response bill is a crucial next step in addressing the disproportionate harm of the COVID-19 crisis on our seniors, their families and those who have dedicated their life to the care of our elders. The Task Force on Aging and Families will continue to fight to ensure the standards of care and living older Americans deserve after a lifetime of hard work.”
The TFAF leadership previously announced its principles for keeping Older Americans healthy, safe and financially secure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key provisions in H.R. 6951, the COVID-19 Recovery for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act of 2020 would:
- Focus the Social Security Administration (SSA) solely on helping people access critical benefits: The bill would require the SSA temporarily halt activities that may require seniors and people with disabilities to make otherwise unnecessary doctor’s visits or other appointments. This would include pausing continuing disability reviews, collection of over overpayments and cessation of benefits due to individuals failing to provide information by specific deadlines. The bill would also prevent SSA from advancing regulations that could make it harder for people to access and retain benefits.
- Increase timely access to disability benefits: Millions of people with disabilities rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for their economic security, and these programs are even more essential during this pandemic and economic downturn. The bill would expand eligibility for these programs by increasing the extremely low asset and income limits for SSI and increasing the substantial gainful activity limit for SSDI. The bill would also suspend the 5-month waiting period for newly eligible SSDI recipients so they can access benefits immediately, automatically forgive student loan debt for SSDI recipients who have a permanent disability that prevents them from working and help people with limited resources navigate the application and appeals processes.
- Ensure seniors and people with disabilities can enroll in Medicare without delay and afford their health care costs: As of April 30, over 30 million Americans have lost their jobs as a result of the economic downturn brought about by COVID-19, and along with it, many have lost their health insurance. To ease the Medicare enrollment process for those eligible, the bill would close gaps in coverage for people who recently enrolled, create a Part B Special Enrollment Period to promote seamless enrollment and relax burdensome paperwork requirements for new enrollees. The bill would also eliminate the 24-month waiting period for Medicare coverage for new SSDI benefit recipients and expand eligibility for programs to help cover the cost of prescription drugs, doctor’s visits and Medicare premiums by eliminating the asset test for these programs.
- Eliminate barriers to home and community-based services: The bill would delay the implementation of the Electronic Visit Verification requirement until six months after the end of the national public health emergency in order to eliminate barriers to care in the home and keep people out of congregate settings.
- Expand access to shelf-stable food: The bill would allow the 700,000 seniors who receive a food box through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to have the option of contactless pick-up and provide additional funding for to increase the quantity of food in each box to limit how frequently a senior must leave the home.
More than 55 national and state organizations representing older adults, people with disabilities and home health care workers, among others, support the bill, including: Alliance for Retired Americans, Alzheimer’s Association, American Diabetes Association, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, Justice in Aging, Latino Hispanic American Community Center, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Hispanic Council on Aging, Social Security Works.