It’s time to reconsider our whole approach to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.
About one in every five Americans—some 57 million—live with disabilities today. Half of those people have a severe disability that interferes in important ways with daily functioning, such as working, cooking and eating, personal hygiene, or maintenance of a home.
These are activities of daily living that most people take for granted. The disabled can’t afford to take anything for granted.
SSDI: A vital lifeline for people who really need it
Right now, about 8.9 million disabled Americans manage to get by with support from Social Security Disability Insurance. Some political and business leaders have been agitating to cut their benefits and to tighten up eligibility requirements. They argue that too many beneficiaries are frauds and freeloaders who are using SSDI as a generous welfare benefit because they’re too lazy to work. They note that the demand for SSDI has expanded so much in recent decades that the federal fund paying for the system is expected to run out of money by 2016.
These critics have it completely wrong. SSDI is not a failed government welfare program. Rather, it should be held up as an example of the best work a compassionate society can do for its citizens.
- Take a moment to do the math. The number of people covered by SSDI is less than a third of the Americans who are living with the most severe disabilities. The rules right now are so restrictive that many of the disabled cannot qualify—or they are discouraged from following up their claims after their initial applications are denied.
- It’s an earned benefit, not a handout. Critics are trying to score cheap political points by confusing SSDI with welfare. It isn’t. An adult recipient must have worked in the labor force for a number of years to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
- Fraud? Don’t make us laugh. Applicants must pass a rigorous review process before they are allowed to draw benefits. The application process is notoriously difficult; about 70 percent of applications are rejected. Those people who pass through the application process are usually desperately ill; many have terminal illnesses. Yes, some cases of fraud are rooted out every year, but these examples account for fewer than one-half of one percent of cases.
The triumph of living with disability
Consider that phrase, “living with disability.” For previous generations, that wasn’t an option. Those with grave disabilities became shut-ins, trapped in their own homes—or simply died. Social Security Disability Insurance allows people who no longer are able to work to still have vital, meaningful lives. We should be celebrating the success of SSDI, rather than criticizing it for enrolling too many people.
For most adults receiving SSDI, the monthly benefits from this program makes up most or all of their income. It allows them to live with a measure of dignity, despite the limitations that have been forced on them.
At Schmidt Kramer, we are committed to the rights of the disabled to enjoy life to the maximum potential. That means we stand ready to assist people in central Pennsylvania with the SSDI process, from documenting medical conditions and applying for benefits, to guiding clients through the appeals process, to getting an unfavorable decision reversed. Our Social Security lawyers in Harrisburg have a sterling record in obtaining satisfactory results for SSDI applicants in the Commonwealth. If you need help with your disability case, contact us at 717-888-8888 or 888-476-0807 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review.