The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) will be out of money for benefits in 2016 unless Congress finds a way to fund the program. There is no shortage of articles discussing how the program is about to go over a budgetary cliff, leaving SSDI claimants without benefits.
Amid the negative coverage, a recent article from the Brookings Institute, a policy think-tank, takes a look at what Congress can do to fix the problem before we reach the edge. The author first notes that the social security tax that everyone pays is split into two separate groups. The majority of the money goes to fund federal pensions for retired workers and surviving spouses. The remaining portion goes to fund the SSDI program.
If nothing is done to fix the problem, every SSDI beneficiary will face a 20 percent cut in benefits in 2016. This coincides with the next presidential election, and it has been suggested that this may have something to do with whether legislatures are willing to fund the program.
The problem arose because disability rates have risen dramatically, as the number of claimants has been exploding in recent years, and the funding estimates on which the program was created are no longer valid.
One short-term solution will be to reallocate how Social Security tax money is spent. In other words, take money that is being allocated to retirement benefits and apply it toward disability benefits. This is the most probable solution because politicians are not likely to cut disability benefits to millions of Americans in an election year.
However, this is only a short-term fix, and it’s bound to cause other problems in the future. The author suggests massive changes to the application process are needed to reduce costs to the system. The years claimants spend waiting during the application process, as they go through appeal after appeal, are costing the system money.
As our Boston disability attorneys know, the application process is not only inefficient but also largely unfair.
The vast majority of all applications are denied, seemingly systematically. Although the SSA has not and probably would never admit it, the unspoken rules make it clear that all applications (aside from those involving conditions that fall under the Compassionate Allowance exceptions) are to be denied.
Once an application is denied, applicants are forced to begin a long and difficult appeals process that can take years to resolve. The first step after a denial is to file a written appeal, in which another SSA employee will review the denial and almost certainly rubber-stamp the denial.
After several appeals, claimants gets the opportunity to have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who listens to testimony from claimants and experts and makes a determination. If a claimant is not successful at the hearing before the ALJ, the next step would be to appeal the case to U.S. District Court.
One of the best things a claimant can do to speed up the process and increase the chances of obtaining benefits is to speak with an attorney as early in the process as possible.
We are familiar with the system. We know the local ALJs. We recognize what is necessary in order for a claim to be successful. Let us help you.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
With Disability Benefits Running on Fumes, What to Do?, October 28, 2014, Brookings
More Blog Entries:
Young People with Disabilities Face Challenges Preparing for Work, July 14, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyers Blog