Recent news reporting and commentary from NPR, the Washington Post, Time, and other sources have highlighted an emerging problem for the federal government: the fund that pays for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is running out of money.
There has been a steady growth in the demand for SSDI benefits over the last few decades, rising about sixfold since 1970. Because SSDI benefits are calculated based on the disabled person’s past earnings, they tend to be more generous than some other government aid programs that are “means-tested”—that is, only available to the poorest. This combination of rising demand and relatively high payouts has drained the federal reserves used to pay benefits.
Running on empty?
Many of the people who have been commenting on this supposed “crisis” have been using the funding challenges to score political points. Their key claims:
- SSDI benefits go too often to people who don’t deserve benefits. Critics argue that the SSDI application process has become too lenient, and the program now serves as a welfare program for many people who are unemployed by choice rather than by true disability.
- SSDI benefits are too generous. By failing to take into account the beneficiary’s wealth, the benefits discourage people from seeking training and education that would allow them to find new jobs within the limits of their disabilities.
- SSDI has become another government boondoggle. The program is funded by payroll taxes on working Americans who are already burdened with too many taxes. Now, there are 6.5 people on disability for every 100 U.S. workers—double the burden from two decades ago, with no end in sight.
Reforming the system? Or blaming the victim?
If present trends continue, the federal fund that pays SSDI benefits will run out of money in 2016. The partisan standstill in Washington means that nobody is seriously considering new revenue to refill the trust fund. Instead, political leaders hostile to government benefits—and to SSDI in particular—have dominated the discussion. Their proposals for reform include:
- Tighter eligibility rules
- More limits on appeals when disability benefits are denied
- Stricter time limits on how long benefits may be received
- Caps on monthly or lifetime benefits
Our clients can expect that the Harrisburg Social Security attorneys at Schmidt Kramer intend to continue the struggle to get fair consideration for disability claims in Pennsylvania. For more than a quarter century, our Dauphin County disability lawyers have provided trustworthy counsel for our neighbors’ SSDI claims, and we’re not about to stop now, even if Washington political gamesmanship makes the application process more challenging.
Whether you are having difficulties with the SSDI application process, or if you just have questions about what’s next for Social Security, please take the time to call Schmidt Kramer at 717-888-8888 or (888) 476-0807 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review.