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Misunderstandings About Social Security Disability Benefits Lead to Unfair Criticism of Recipients

Recently, the New American discussed a survey that the Washington Examiner published regarding recipients of Social Security disability benefits. The New American reported that a 2009 study by the Social Security Administration showed that most recipients of federal disability checks acknowledged that finding a job was not a priority.1088940_2_annual_reports__3

Both the New American and the original article in the Washington Examiner suggested that it was a bad thing that recipients of benefits didn’t place a high priority on finding jobs. The articles called the disability program into question on the basis of these findings, suggesting that people who were receiving these benefits that did not deserve them and that the program itself was flawed as a result. Unfortunately, our Manhattan disability lawyers know that these opinions stem from a misunderstanding about the nature and purpose of the SSA disability benefits system.

People On Disability are Long-Term Disabled 

As the New American and the Washington Examiner both pointed out, returning to work is not a goal for 71 percent of recipients receiving SSDI benefits nor for 60 percent of SSI recipients. The report also indicated that 75 percent of SSDI recipients didn’t think they’d return to work within five years and 65 percent of SSI recipients also didn’t see a reentry into the labor force within the next five years.

The New American and the Washington Examiner reported these findings as if they were evidence that there was something wrong with the program or the recipients, who were described locked into a “way of life wherein government dependency is virtually assured.”

Unfortunately, criticizing the disability program because people within the program cannot work is both unfair and misinformed. The very purpose of disability benefits through the Social Security Administration is to provide a social safety net for people who are too severely disabled to work. In order to qualify for benefits, applicants must have a severe disabling medical condition that has lasted a year, that will last a year or that is expected to result in death. The condition also must significantly interfere with the ability to perform work tasks.

People whose disabilities are severe enough to become eligible for benefits are, by definition, too disabled to work, have been for a long time and will be for the long term. It is natural that those who are receiving benefits would not place a high priority on work and would not be looking for work. Many of those who are receiving benefits can barely get through the day, so finding a job is not likely to be on the top of their list of things to do.

While articles such as these news stories may seem to be incorrect but harmless analyses of the disability benefits program, problems stem when misinformation about the SSA disability benefits system prompt cries for changing the system. Applying for benefits is hard enough already with a denial rate above 50 percent for most first-time applicants. It would be dangerous and significantly undermine the social safety net to make any changes that make it even harder for the disabled to get help from the Social Security Administration.

If you need help with your Social Security Disability claim, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today by calling (800) 692-3717.