Is the Social Security disability program facing crisis?

The Social Security Administration’s solvency or lack thereof is frequently in the news here in Wisconsin. It has been forecast that the administration’s trust fund will be exhausted sometime in the 2030s, which means that by that time taxes will need to be raised to fund the program or benefits will need to be cut. Politicians argue back and forth about what to do about this issue, most often focusing on the retirement benefits that are most commonly associated with Social Security.

A lesser discussed program of the Social Security Administration is Social Security disability insurance, which provides benefits to Americans who become disabled prior to retiring. This program is funded by a separate trust fund, and it has been estimated that this fund could run out by 2016–just three years from now. So, what does this mean for disability recipients?

If Congress does not act, when the fund runs out disability payments may need to be reduced by about 20 percent. This could potentially affect 8.8 million Americans as well as their dependants, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will move money over from the larger Social Security fund to avoid this, or raise taxes. Other options that have been suggested include moving disability costs to workers, state governments or employers.

Whether Congress will pursue any of those avenues, or simply slash benefits, remains to be seen. As is stands, disabled Americans are in a very difficult spot. There are negative and undeserved stigmas and stereotypes associated with collecting disability insurance benefits, and at the same time SSDI benefits remain very difficult to obtain. It is important for Americans–disabled or not–to be aware that SSDI is not a handout. It is an insurance program into which working Americans pay during their working lives. As such, they have the right to file claims should they become disabled. It is a critical lifeline for many Wisconsin residents, and those who need benefits should not hesitate to pursue them.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Does Congress have the heart to avert disability crisis?” Michael Hiltzik, April 2, 2013

  • Our law firm in Milwaukee helps people to file Social Security disability claims and appeal denials. More information is available on our Social Security Disability page.

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