Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available to those who are unable to work due to severe long-term disabling conditions. Unfortunately, the disability benefits system has come under attack in recent months, as some argue that it is a costly program adding too much to government deficits and being taken advantage of by those without legitimate disability benefits claims.
Our Manhattan work injury attorneys know that the majority of applicants for SSD benefits are denied and that the SSA has a very strict definition of disabled, which can be hard to meet. With the stringent application process and so many denied claims, many of the attacks claiming that the SSD system is being abused are unfounded.
Scrutiny of the Social Security Disability System
According to Fox News, the number of disability claims hit a new record high in April with 10,962,532 million reportedly receiving benefits. The benefits are going to a record 8,865,586 disabled workers (more than the 8,853,614 beneficiaries in March), as well as to 1,936,236 children of disabled workers, and to 160,710 spouses.
The record number of claims and recipients of disability benefits have led some to express concern that the disability benefits system is being used as a substitution for welfare benefits, which became more difficult to qualify for since the welfare program shifted to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) as part of welfare reform during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Some are also expressing concern that the disability benefits system is being used as a substitute for unemployment when unemployment benefits run out without a new job being secured.
NPR tackled the rising number of claims, for example, as part of its Planet Money series. NRP was one of many who took the position that the benefits system is getting out of control and that not all claimants are truly unable to work.
NPR’s series, however, created a firestorm of controversy with responses coming in from Commissioners of the Social Security Administration; from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities and from numerous other sources. The responses argued that disability benefits provide critical support for those who cannot work. The responses also pointed out that the standard for qualifying for disability benefits is very strict, making it unlikely that anyone other than the truly disabled would be able to receive SSD benefits.
Unfortunately, the very fact of the record number of disabled individuals, coupled with stories such as NPR’s that indicate that the benefits program may be being abused, have created problems for this important social safety net. If lawmakers decide to take any action to change the system, it is likely that a bad situation will become even worse because an already strict application process will become even harder to successfully complete.
Making it any more difficult to qualify for disability benefits could spell disaster for those who have health problems or impairments. Unfortunately, the stories that center around the record number of disabled individuals making claims may be ignoring one very important point: the population is aging and it is likely there really are more disabled people who cannot work. These disabled people will need to get benefits from somewhere and it should not become impossible to meet the qualifying criteria for SSD.