Critics of Social Security Disability (SSD) who advocate for "reform" often point to numbers with sources developed by those with a not-very-hidden agenda - the destruction of all Social Security programs, but especially SSD. These numbers suggest an out-of-control increase in the number of recipients and applications, and hint that the increase is somehow the result of some type of misbehavior on the part of recipients. Rather than accept these claims without question, let's check the facts.
Each time a worker receives a paycheck, it includes a deduction for FICA and disability taxes that the government uses to fund Social Security old-age pensions and disability insurance. People who have worked the required number of quarters and are determined to be disabled by the Social Security system are entitled to disability benefits. Those who suggest that disabled people are somehow defrauding the system seem to forget that recipients actually paid for the benefits they now receive.
Let's look at the increase in the number of people receiving SSD. In 2000, the population of the United States was 282.2 million people. In 2012, the population was 313.9 million, an increase of 11 percent. During the same period, the number of SSD recipients went from 5,042,334 (1.8 percent of the population) to 8,827,795 (2.8 percent of the population). Yes, there was an increase, but the increase was essentially one percent when expressed as a percentage of the total population. Is one percent going to break the bank? Yes, according to the foes of SSD.
When you think about it, a one percent increase is pretty reasonable, given the aging of the U.S. population. As they get older, people are more susceptible to injury and illness. As the population bulge that is the Baby Boom ages, it makes sense that there would be more disabled workers. Given this logic, the increase in SSD applications and awards will gradually decline as these workers reach retirement age and begin receiving Social Security's old age pension benefit.
SSD is not the only benefit program that is under scrutiny by Congress. Those who oppose almost any program that helps those who have fallen on hard times or are old also look at Medicaid, Medicare, and that third-rail of American politics, Social Security old-age pensions. However, SSD seems to have become a special object of attack. Why?
Why Do Critics Hate SSD?
Is it because the disabled are an easy target? Is it because disabled people often have invisible disabilities, such as mental illness, intractable addiction, neurological disorders and other unseen ailments that prevent them from working?
Do Republicans hate SSD because they think it was a Democratic program? If that's the case, they have forgotten that it was first enacted under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.
Many critics seem to think it is too easy to get SSD benefits. However, in 11 of the last 16 quarters, the percentage of people whose claims were approved decreased over the previous quarter. Since 1999, the percentage of applications approved has declined from 51.7 percent to 33.5 percent in 2013.
Never Give Up
When you look at the numbers, most of the arguments used by the critics of SSD really don't hold up. However, those critics don't let the facts stop them. One of the results of their campaign is that it's harder than ever to get disability benefits under the program, and people often just stop trying.
At Binder & Binder®, our advocates urge people to never give up. Over the years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people get the disability benefits they need and deserve. If you are having trouble with your claim, call us. As America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates, we know how to help.
Source: Social Security website, "Disability Insurance Benefit Payments."