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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) strongly supports and urges all members of Congress to support the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). This agreement, across all four corners of congressional leadership and President Obama, restores critical funding equally to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending that will allow for critical investments in mental illness research, mental health services, supportive housing and veterans programs. It also ensures that we do not risk the full faith and credit of the United States by suspending the debt ceiling through March 2017.
The BBA continues the precedent set by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 by replacing sequestration equally for both defense and nondefense over the next two years. In fact, the bill replaces close to 90% of sequestration cuts in FY 2016 and by about sixty percent in FY 2017. This provides Congress with an additional $55 billion over the next two years to invest in non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs that will allow for adequate funding for mental illness research, mental health services and housing programs that are a critical lifeline for people living with serious mental illness. By providing equal relief for defense and NDD, this agreement shows Americans that Congress can both provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of this great nation.
NAMI is also grateful that the bipartisan agreement avoids a looming 19% cut in monthly cash assistance for people with significant disabilities that rely on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The SSDI Trust Fund is projected to become insolvent by the end of 2016. By allowing for a reallocation between the two trust funds, this bipartisan agreement will ensure payments through 2022.
NAMI is also pleased to see that the plan provides the Social Security Administration temporary authority (through 2022) to demonstrate different ways to promote work incentives for people with significant disabilities, including serious mental illness. More specifically, the plan proposes replacing the existing “cash cliff” with a benefit offset, under which the DI benefit would be reduced by $1 for every $2 of earnings in excess of a threshold. This demonstration is one of the proposals put forth by several bipartisan panels examining ways to reform SSDI to keep the program solvent and to incentivize work.
NAMI looks forward to working with Congress on the details of this proposal to ensure smooth implementation.