In a previous blog, we outlined the new rules in the House of Representatives that would limit Congressional ability to shift money from Social Security retirement benefits to Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. This is something Congress has done many times before to address temporary budget shortfalls. The new rule will make this more difficult and could result in a decrease of up to 19 percent in SSD benefit payments after 2016.
The Disabled Become Pawns in the Game of Politics
Attacks on the disability program have already become a topic on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. One presidential hopeful who was testing the waters in New Hampshire suggested that recipients of SSD benefits were malingers and thus not deserving of benefits. According to Politico.com, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said that half the people on SSD benefits had aching backs and anxiety. "Join the club," he said. "Who doesn't get up a little anxious for work and their back hurts?" He was forced to backtrack when the video of his remarks appeared on line - but only slightly. "We should absolutely take care of those truly in need of help," Paul stated.
Is this political grandstanding? Possibly. According to the chief actuary at Social Security, the new rule only kicks in at a certain level, allowing Congress to reallocate funds up to around $37 billion. Only after that limit was reached would the restriction be implemented. However, those in favor of reducing or dismantling the program altogether don't go into details too much.
Nevertheless, there is a problem - no one denies that. And it's a problem that has been predicted since the 1990s. However, dealing with it is such a political minefield that neither party has really wanted to set foot in it, despite the fact that surveys show most Americans are in favor of the program. Whatever they do, politicians on both sides of the aisle believe their reputations will suffer. Republicans fear they will be known as the party that took benefits away from the deserving disabled; Democrats fear they will be targeted as fiscally irresponsible.
The Are Some Solutions, if Only Politicians Can Agree to Tackle the Problem
Some experts point to European countries as examples of how disability insurance could be structured. In Holland, for example, employers must bear much of the cost of the first two years of disability payments. This makes Dutch employers much more likely to try to come up with accommodations that keep their disabled employees in the workforce - otherwise, they will have to pay.
In short, there are changes that can be made that could be agreeable to most of those in charge of the Social Security purse-strings. However, politicians running for re-election or promotion to higher office seldom want to examine the nuances of changes to Social Security Disability. Rather, they prefer to get headlines by making inflammatory statements that demonize the other party, benefit recipients, the bureaucracy that administers the programs, and anyone else who might have some interest in this important program.
Whatever Happens, Get Help With Your Claims for Disability Benefits
Although the eventual outcome of this debate is unknown, one thing is certain. Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits will not get any easier. If you are disabled and can no longer work, it is more important than ever to get help with your claim or appeal. Do what thousands of others have done: Call Binder & Binder, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Tell them your story and find out how they can help.