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More Attacks on the Social Security Disability Program

President Obama's administration recently proposed that Congress transfer $330 billion from the Social Security trust fund to cover the shortfall in Social Security Disability funding. This blog has reported before on the history of such transfers; adjustments in the trust fund have been made repeatedly since the advent of the Social Security Disability program in the 1950s.

Myths About SSD

Opponents of the program have repeatedly characterized disabled beneficiaries of the program as malingerers and fraudsters. For example, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, noted that more than half the people on disability are either suffering from anxiety or have bad backs and aches and pains. According to the Washington Post, here's what he said:

What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn't be getting a disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts - join the club. Who doesn't get a little anxious for work and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has a back pain. And I am not saying that there are not legitimately people who are disabled. But the people who are the malingerers are the ones taking the money away from the people who are paraplegic, quadriplegic. You know, we all know people who are horrifically disabled and can't work, but if you have able bodied people taking the money, then there is not enough money for the people who are truly disabled.

However, when an aide to Sen. Paul issued a clarification of the Senator's remarks in New Hampshire, it seems that the senator still disagrees with the SSA's fraud calculations. According to the senator's communications director, quoted by CNN:

Citizens with chronic illness and disabilities in need of help should never be turned away from government programs set up for the purposes of aiding those in need. If you study government data from the Social Security Administration, you find that the numbers come very close to Senator Paul's off-the-cuff ballpark estimate. Senator Paul's point was simple; those who are not in need, and consuming government resources dedicated to those who need help, are hurting the people these programs are intended to aid.

The facts are quite different. No matter how hard you try, counting SSD recipients with back problems and anxiety disorders does not get you even close to the 50 percent claimed by Sen. Paul. Almost two-thirds of SSD claims are denied. Appeals after denials take an average of 400 days, according to a story in the LA Times. Getting SSD benefits is not easy, and the rate of fraud is less than two percent, according to Social Security Administration staff. At best, opponents of the SSD program are twisting the story and exaggerating. At worst, they are attacking the disabled for their own political ends.

Consequences of Doing Nothing

Unless the shift of funds proposed in the president's budget is enacted, benefits for disabled workers could be cut by 19 percent. Making the transfer of funds proposed by the president would give Congress two decades to figure out the situation, and would shorten the length of time before the transfer would affect retirement benefits by only one year - and that is if the Congress does nothing.

Let's examine some of the myths repeated by Congressional opponents of SSD. One frequently repeated statement is that the program is "going broke." That is simply not true. If Congress makes no changes in the funding of the disability program, benefits will be cut by 19 percent. This is hardly the equivalent of being broke.

Reasons for SSD Funding Problems

There are many reasons for the need to transfer funds. Prominent among them are two things: There are more women working and thus eligible for SSD benefits. The second reason is that the population bulge of baby boomers is aging; members of this group are more likely to become disabled and unable to work. However, the results of these demographic shifts do not constitute the emergency cited by those who oppose this lifeline for millions of disabled Americans who can no longer work.

Applying for SSD Benefits Will Not Get Easier

Whether the majority in Congress succeeds in gutting the SSD program is unknown, but unlikely. Millions of hard-working Americans who have paid into the system but can no longer work now live with some measure of dignity because of the SSD program. However, it is entirely possible that applying for and receiving benefits will become even more difficult than it is now.

Get Help With Your SSD Claim

That's where we come in. We are the advocates of Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. We serve thousands of disabled workers every year who have experienced problems with their SSD claims, helping them get the benefits they need and that they paid for through their payroll deductions. If you are having problems with your application for disability benefits, call us and learn how we can help.

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