Lately, the Social Security disability benefits program has come under scrutiny because there are record numbers of people receiving benefits and because the cost of covering disability benefits now exceeds annual expenses paid out for welfare and food stamps. Our Manhattan disability lawyers have written in the past about how the Social Security Disability System Makes Unfair Target, but the recent news about an impending budget shortfall has re-awakened concerns about the number of people receiving disability benefits.
Amid this political climate where the efficacy of the disability benefits program is being questioned and where many are raising concerns about whether all who receive benefits are truly disabled, it is important to remember that the Social Security disability system serves as an important lifeline for those who cannot work. The Huffington Post recently aimed to dispel some of the myths about the SSD benefits system in order to provide more information amidst a series of articles that have been critical of SSA disability coverage.
Facts and Myths about Disability Benefits Programs
According to the Huffington Post, the SSD benefits programs may not be in as much financial trouble as some suggest. It is true that the disability trust fund could run short of money by 2016, necessitating a cut in benefits. However, Congress in the past has traditionally reallocated payroll taxes in order to deal with anticipated financial shortfalls. Congress may be able to do this again to deal with the impending crisis related to disability benefits.
A modest reallocation of payroll taxes could potentially protect the ability of the disabled to continue to receive benefits until as long as 2033. This provides a long time for solutions to be found and money to be raised to ensure that the disabled can still get the income they need.
The Huffington Post also indicates that the increase in the number of people on disability has been driven by demographic changes. Baby boomers are aging, but this is not the only substantial change that has resulted in more people on disability. Many women also entered the workforce in 1980s and are covered by SSA disability benefits for the first time as they age. The full retirement age for qualifying for SSA retirement benefits was also pushed back, meaning workers are expected to work for longer and these older workers have a greater chance of becoming disabled and will stay on disability for longer until their retirement benefits kick in.
All of these factors have contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of people receiving benefits. Yet, this increase is starting to level off and is projected to decline when baby boomers age into receiving retirement benefits instead of disability income. This means that within the not-very-distant future, the number of people on disability could return to more sustainable levels.
Finally, another important factor is that Americans have consistently expressed support for SSD benefits in polls and are willing to pay for them. With broad support from the public, there should be ways to ensure that these benefits programs remain solvent so the disabled can continue to receive the Social Security disability benefits they require.