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Approaches to Reforming the Disability Benefits System

Our Boston Social Security disability lawyers know that federal lawmakers are looking seriously for solutions to what some believe are major problems within the disability benefits system. Concerns that the Social Security Disability Insurance funds will run out of money within just a few short years, coupled with reports of dramatic increases in SSD benefits signaling potential fraud, have led lawmakers to explore proposals to alter how benefits are paid. u-s--supreme-court-hallway-658238-m.jpg

Social Security Disability (SSD) is a last resort for many patients who are too severely ill or injured to hold down a job and earn income to support themselves. Benefits are relatively small for SSD recipients and qualifying for SSD is extremely difficult, with well over half of all applications denied even after exhausting the appeals process. Yet, with few workers having access to any type of private disability insurance, SSDI is often the only income that a disabled person is able to access.

With SSD benefits playing such an important role in helping to provide vulnerable disabled people with necessary income, any changes to the program should be geared at increasing benefits and making it easier for those who are ill to get the money they need. Unfortunately, many of the proposals intended to “fix” the SSD program actually would do little to help SSD benefits recipients. The National Review has recently taken a close look at how some of the proposals to modify SSD would work. Options for change that have been suggested include:

  • A proposal authored by David Autor and Mark Duggan to extend private disability insurance (PDI) to the vast majority of workers. The PDI policy would support workers for 90 days to 2.25 years after the worker becomes disabled, after which time an individual who was still unable to obtain gainful employment would transfer to the SSDI system. Such a system would reportedly create a strong financial incentive for firms to find ways to keep people working and limit the number of workers from claiming disability benefits, thus reducing the cost.
  • A proposal authorized by Mary Daly and Richard Burkhauser, which imposes an experience rating on firms that pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) system. If workers enroll into the system at above-average rates, SSDI payroll taxes would be raised. By contrast, SSDI payroll taxes would be lowered on firms whose workers enroll at below-average rates. This reform, it is believed, would incentive employers to try to accommodate disabled employees because employers would bear the cost for a high number of SSDI claims. Employers would also be incentivized to buy short-term disability benefits coverage for workers as doing so would allow the company to reduce SSDI tax rates.

Unfortunately, these proposals to privatize the system, or to essentially penalize employers with a lot of people who are disabled and sick, do very little to address the fact that many who are seriously disabled are still without needed benefits because the SSDI system is so hard to qualify for. Modification to the SSDI system should work to find ways to make life easier for these seriously disabled individuals who are counting on disability benefits to make ends meet.

If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

More Blog Entries:

Government Shutdown and SSDI, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyers Blog, October 10, 2013.