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The Nature of the Beast: A Look At What Has Made SSD What it Is Today

It seems as though the Social Security Disability program is constantly being scrutinized, and for good reason. As the system becomes backlogged with applicants and the funds run dry, people want an answer as to why Social Security Disability (SSD) is going the direction it is.

The simplest answers point to increased recipient numbers as a result of both aging baby boomers and the large influx of women who hit the working world in the 1980s—after all, as we age, our health often deteriorates, so this is a reasonable explanation. For many, though, the numbers have long ceased to add up, and a much larger systemic problem may be to blame.

SSD Recipients Are the Invisible Population

When the costs of the SSD program inevitably come up in conversation, many people argue that just as much money is spent on unemployment, welfare, and food stamp programs. While this may have held true decades earlier, the tables have now turned.

This money, however, is never accounted for in the regular “health of the economy” reports we often see. Once a person begins receiving disability, they are no longer considered a part of the workforce, so they disappear from unemployment figures—while this may not seem like a big problem, this is a 14-million person discrepancy, which is fairly significant.

This invisibility is not just a figure in an unemployment table—it is easy to feel invisible as a recipient of disability benefits. Financially speaking, disability is not a way to get wealthy—most people on disability will receive an income far below the poverty line. Many people with a disability would love to find work that could accommodate them, but jobs that they may be able to hold would not provide the same medical benefits, leaving these men and women with little choice but to remain on disability.

A Sliding Scale: The Changing Cross-Section of Disabilities Represented in SSD

There is no doubt that Social Security Disability has evolved with changes in the economy and job market, but other changes have made it more difficult for nearly everyone to make it through the application process to receive benefits.

Looking at SSD applications fifty years ago in a graph compiled by NPR, the majority of claims were related to very straightforward disabilities stemming from strokes, heart disease, and neurological disorders. These disabilities would be very easy to prove with medical evidence, so the process for these individuals to receive benefits was likely much simpler.

Today, an overwhelming majority of SSD claims cite back pain, neck pain, and mental illness—all of which are extraordinarily subjective and challenging to definitively prove with hard evidence. This slows the application process down considerably, as much more care and detail must go into examining these claims.

What Can Be Done to Help Your Case?

Without change at the highest levels, individuals with disabilities face an uphill battle when it comes to receiving benefits. There is no way to “beat the system” or get around the red tape at every step of the process—but there is still something you can do to give yourself the best chance possible of receiving your benefits.

If you are applying for disability benefits in Pennsylvania and have experienced a denial or delay, our attorneys can work with you to ensure that your application and appeal is as complete and thorough as possible. Many people are initially denied, but with our experience and knowledge of the system, we can help you move forward. Contact us today by phone or by live chat to schedule your free consultation now!

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