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Who is Getting the Most from Social Security Disability?

Last year, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was saved from immediate destruction when federal lawmakers gave the Ok for a temporary patch to keep the program going without going bankrupt. That was big news for the 11 million Americans currently on disability, who were facing a 20 percent reduction in their benefits. papers

But that patch, which involved moving around funding from the Social Security retirement program, is only going to last us through 2022. Before then, there will undoubtedly be much debate about the future of the program, how much we should continue to dole out in benefits and how we’re going to pay its current $150-billion annual price tag. Although it’s not the largest program intended to help subsidize those who are struggling financially, it’s one that receives the lion’s share of the criticism. Part of the problem is that most people don’t understand the rigorous and lengthy process that claimants must endure to prove their disability and also to establish a long enough work history. They don’t understand it’s a system that people had to have paid into via their federal taxes for many years before a claim can be made. And they don’t understand that the process is so complex and demanding, claimants need an SSDI lawyer to help them navigate it effectively.

The program was created to help workers who have become physically or mentally disabled, as well as their families, stay afloat financially. Although critics say the program is far too generous, you must keep in mind that the average benefits usually only work out to about $1,165 monthly. That’s about $14,000 a year. 

Because even the federal retirement fund itself is slated to run out of cash by 2035, we can’t expect that to serve as and endless wellspring of revenue. Lawmakers are going to have to figure out a sustainable way to keep these benefits flowing for those who need it, or else taxpayers are going to end up seeing these individuals begin taxing our hospitals, our homeless shelters and other resources.

But in order to formulate a good plan, it’s important to understand how it’s working now. That means giving people an accurate sense of who is actually benefiting from the program. Too often, there is a sense that people are taking advantage of the system. Research has shown that overwhelmingly is not true. Here are some facts that help us understand better who is benefiting and how:

  • The percentage of workers receiving disability has tripled, from 1.6 percent in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2013. Some point to this as evidence of a problem, but the truth is, it has more to do with the fact that our population is aging (and older workers have higher rates of injury) and women have joined the workforce in droves, which means our overall labor force has grown substantially.
  • Those in Southern states are most likely to claim disability benefits. West Virginia had the highest rates (8.9 percent), with Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi not far behind.
  • More than one-half of woman and one-third of men receive less than $1,000 in disability benefits a month.
  • The incident rate of individuals joining the program annually has remained mostly the same since 1991.

Keep in mind too: Families and children are supported by these benefits too.

If you have questions about how to secure SSDI benefits in Boston, we can help.

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

Additional Resources:

Who Gets the Most Disability Pay? 8 Key Social Security Facts, Feb. 26, 2016, By Eric Pianin, The Fiscal Times

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S.S.A. Extends Compassionate Allowances to Certain Cancer Patients, June 13, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog