New Social Security rule limits access to non-English speakers

The Trump administration on Monday finalized a rule that would limit access to Social Security disability benefits for non-English speakers.

“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“The workforce and work opportunities have changed, and outdated regulations need to be revised to reflect today’s world,” he added.

One of the steps necessary to claim disability benefits is an assessment of an applicant’s education, part of an effort to check whether they have the capacity to find work outside the scope of their medical condition. Until now, the education assessment would take into account whether the applicant spoke English.

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.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, called the rule a “disgrace.”

“The administration has provided no valid evidence that these workers will be able to make ends meet without this support from the federal government,” she said.

“This is a lifeline for some of our community’s most vulnerable, and we should not turn a blind eye to their needs,” she added.

Saul said the rule was adopted after an evaluation suggested by the Social Security Administration’s inspector general in 2015.

The rule’s finalization follows proposals in Trump’s budget to scale back a slew of anti-poverty programs and medical benefits by tightening work requirements and adding other restrictions.

Tags John Larson Rosa DeLauro Social Security

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