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Attacks on Social Security Disability Are Not New

This blog has reported frequently on the congressional majority's intention to gut the Social Security Disability(SSD) program. However, one of the lesser-known stories about efforts to reduce or eliminate SSD is the history of these efforts. It turns out that targeting SSD is not new, and that it has been going on since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan and the Attacks on SSD

It turns out that attacks on SSD intensified under President Reagan, famous for his "welfare queen" imagery that had a woman driving to the welfare office in her Cadillac to pick up her welfare check. Reagan also believed that making benefits less easy to get and less generous would reduce the number of fraudulent SSD recipients. However, President Reagan still signed a budget bill that transferred funds from the retirement benefits program to the disability benefits program - twice!

Although President Reagan did sign off on the reallocation of funds to protect the federal disability program, he was also part of the effort to label SSD as rampant with fraud and waste. However, reporting by, among others, the Washington Post, revealed the plan for what it was: a politically motivated effort to discredit the other side.

Senate Advocates for Social Security Disability

Today, however, opponents of the SSD program call this kind of pragmatism "kicking the can down the road." The loudest voices opposing the congressional majority are Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). They have been dedicated supporters of the SSD program, noting that in addition to the so-called "undeserving" recipients of disability benefits, two million veterans and 1.8 million children receive payments. They also reported that SSD is the only income for 30 percent of recipients. Given that the average benefit is around $1,200 per month, this means that at least a third of SSD recipients live in poverty.

False Characterizations of Beneficiaries

Those who oppose SSD are trying to pit the beneficiaries of the old age pension, something that most working Americans are eligible to receive, with the recipients of SSD benefits, which go to about 11 million people. They have framed the battle as necessary to protect the old age pensions.

Unlike recipients of retirement benefits, those who live on SSD are characterized as "shiftless," and "able-bodied slackers." They point to fraud in the program, illustrating the old notion that if a lie is repeated often enough, it will become true. In reality, fraud in the SSD program is less than one percent, according to the inspector general of the Social Security Administration.

Contact an SSD Advocate

Although the SSD program is under attack, it will not go away entirely, although the congressional party in power may succeed in forcing even more recipients live in poverty. If nothing is done, benefits could be cut significantly as early as next year. However, one thing is certain: It is not going to be any easier for disabled workers to apply for and receive SSD benefits. That's where we come in. At Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates, we help those who can no longer work obtain the disability benefits they need and have paid for with every pay check. If you are having trouble with your application for benefits, give us a call and find out how we can help.

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