Recently, Philly.com published an article with the provocative title: “Is Social Security disability program ‘backdoor welfare’?” The headline was prompted by commentary from Tad DeHaven, a research associate with a libertarian think tank called the Cato Institute, which examined the Social Security disability trust fund and said it was the most “ill-defined and exploited” government program he had ever seen.
DeHaven argues that the Social Security disability system has been expanded beyond its original purpose and has become too easily to qualify for. This “ease” of applying allegedly accounts for the fact that the number of workers receiving disability checks has increased at an “alarming rate.” Unfortunately, however, our New York City disability lawyers know that this increase in people receiving benefits is not due to an easier application process but is instead due to the aging population. The simple fact that there are more people in the program does not mean that people are using it as backdoor welfare, and the safeguards in the system ensure that it cannot be used that way.
The Social Security Disability System is Different Than Welfare
The Social Security disability system provides important and life-saving benefits to those who are severely disabled and who are not able to work as a result of a severe medical condition. Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits is not easy. There is a three to five month delay before your application is even reviewed, and more than half of all initial applications are denied. You also have to submit extensive documentation from qualified and licensed medical professionals to show that you are severely disabled before you will have a benefits claim approved.
With such tight regulations, it’s unlikely that a person who is not disabled would be able to qualify for and obtain benefits. Further, because recipients of disability benefits are subject to periodic medical reviews in order to continue to retain their benefits, it would be even more difficult for someone to remain on disability if he or she was not truly impaired.
DeHaven, however, says that it has become too easy to qualify for benefits, especially as the program has expanded its coverage. While disability benefits were originally available only for workers aged 50 through 64, today benefits can be obtained by both adults and children who meet qualifying criteria.
Questions were also raised regarding why disability benefits would be increasing in a “day and age when medical advances mean people are living longer and healthier lives than before.” Of course, this question seems counter-intuitive. These same medical advances may be keeping people with disabling conditions and severe diseases alive who might otherwise have died without the advances. These individuals may not die from their diseases but may still be too sick to work as a result of the underlying medical conditions, such as a patient who is able to live with advanced cancer thanks to new medical options.
Those who are receiving disability benefits are obviously clearly in need, or they would not have made it through the rigorous application process. Regardless of this fact, however, there is one simple fundamental truth to understand: disability benefits are not definitely not welfare.
While Supplemental Security Income is funded by general revenues and not Social Security tax, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system is supported by money that workers pay into the system out of every paycheck. It is essentially de facto insurance in case you get sick. When you pay into the SSDI system, you buy the right to be covered if you are unable to work. No one should tell you that you are accepting welfare if you claim these benefits and no one should deny you the benefits that you legitimately earned.
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.