Critics of the Social Security Administration, especially those who feel that Social Security Disability is bankrupting the country, need to take a look at some data about the program and its recipients. The reality is quite a bit different from the picture painted by the opponents of these valuable programs.
First, how does the SSD program in the United States compare with that in other countries? The U.S. spends around 1.0 percent of the total economy on public disability benefits. Compare this with European countries such as United Kingdom, which spends 2.4 percent of its gross domestic product on disability benefits, while Sweden spends 2.2 percent, the Netherlands 2.1 percent, and Germany 1.1 percent. In short, U.S. spending on disability benefits is lower than countries with comparable wealth.
Second, are beneficiaries living large as a result of their SSD benefits? The answer is that around 31 percent of disabled workers have incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty threshold. The vast majority of SSD recipients rely on their benefits for at least half their income. People are not getting rich from SSD benefits: The average benefit for SSD recipients was around $1,100 monthly, as of January 2013. It is extremely difficult to live on this amount of money, as many SSD recipients can tell you.
Third, are beneficiaries receiving benefits for a large proportion of their lives? The answer is not really, because SSD recipients must have worked and paid into the system for a specified number of years in order to be eligible. Moreover, at least 1 in 6 (1 in 5 for men) die within five years after starting to receive benefits.
Fourth, are some recipients not really disabled? Again, the answer is no. Rather, many beneficiaries have multiple impairments and conditions.
Fifth, who are SSD recipients? They are likely to be older than the general workforce, with an average age of 53 in 2011. Three in ten are over 60, and seven out of ten are over 50. They tend to be less well educated: One in three recipients has not completed high school.
Although facts about SSD are relatively easy to find, more noise comes from those who wish to eliminate the program, obscuring the truth about SSD. If you have tried to apply for disability benefits, you know that the process is not easy. Your initial claim may have been denied - almost half of all claims are rejected at first, requiring disabled workers to fight for the benefits that they paid for with their payroll taxes.
If you applied for SSD benefits and were turned down , know that assistance is available. Do what so many others have done: Call Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Tell them your story and learn how they can help.
Source: National Academy of Social Insurance, "What is Social Security Disability Insurance?"