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Compromise on Social Security Disability Budget to Avert Crisis

For at least the past year, we have been hearing a lot from the media and politicians running for presidential nominations about how the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program and the Supplemental Security Income programs would run out of money in late 2016, resulting in a reduction of benefits by 19 percent across the board.   This across the board 19 percent budget cut would mean for the nearly 10 million Americans currently collecting disability benefits, their respective checks would be cut by 19 percent, leaving many of them below the federal poverty line with no way to take care of themselves and their families.   The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) runs both disability programs, as well as the Old Age and Retirement Program of which most people are familiar.

writing-a-check-2-701013-mWhile this budget crisis was getting closer, many politicians, mostly Democrats, were advocating for a reallocation of resources from the Social Security retirement program to the disability benefits programs. Even though Social Security Administration runs both the disability and retirement programs, the money comes from different funds, because they are not designated for the same purpose in terms of who the beneficiaries are. This would be relatively easy to do, since the retirement program is funded through the year 2034, according to most estimates, and it would only take enough money to reduce that number by one year to fully fund the disability program for at least the next 15 years.

While this would be a simple solution and has been done a few times in the past, members of the GOP have said they are not willing to do this, because it would not fix the underlying problems to prevent this from happening in the future, thus it likely would happen again. However, many were skeptical that anyone would really allow millions of disabled Americans to face going hungry while they running for office.

According to a recent news article from NOLA, the United States Senate has sent an approved piece of legislation to President Obama that is said to contain some “fixes” to the manner in which the disability programs operate, while at the same time providing enough money to fund the program for the next three years. The budget compromise also includes money to hire more administrative law judges (ALJs) to help reduce wait times, which, as our Boston Social Security disability benefits attorneys can attest to, are already far too long.

While there is definitely a backlog at the Social Security Admiration in terms of claims processing, the real problem for most applicants is that the system is set up in such a way that the majority of all applications are denied as soon as they are received, without regard to the merits of the claim. At this point, applicants are forced to go through a lengthy appeals process that ultimately ends up with a hearing in front of an ALJ. There is no question that the wait time to get to an ALJ is too long, and more judges would help, but simply giving applications proper consideration when they are first received would greatly reduce the number of hearings needed, which in turn would reduce the wait without the need to hire more judges.

If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Social Security disability pressure eased by budget compromise, October 28, 2015, NOLA, by Mark Schleifstein

More Blog Entries:
Hanson v. Colvin: A Critical Look by a Court of Appeals on a Denial of Benefits, August 14, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog.