Lawmakers grappling with the issue of how to keep the federal disability insurance program fully functional for generations to come heard a novel idea recently from an analyst with the Congressional Budget Office.
In a hearing before the House Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee, analyst Joyce Manchester testified that employers have to be brought into the fold to help reduce the risk of a worker incurring a disabling condition to begin with.
Our Boston Social Security Disability Insurance lawyers know that this will of course be easier said than done, but it’s certainly an option worth exploring.
Interestingly, neither Manchester nor other witnesses harped on the issue of fraud or individuals seeking out benefits to which they weren’t rightly entitled. A report last year released by the Government Accountability Office found that was not a substantial concern nor a driving force behind the increase in disability rolls.
The greater issue is the baby boom. America had a birth rate explosion in the mid-1940s, but it tapered off dramatically by 1965. What that means it that we have a sizable population right now that is aging. The risk of disability increases with age. But we have a younger, working generation that is not large enough to support it.
So the question is what do we do with this. Some have suggested that tighten restrictions and make it tougher for people to get on disability in the first place. However, this ends up actually costing us more because these individuals end up relying on other social services in order to meet their basic needs.
So Manchester’s suggestion of holding employers more accountable for safe work standards makes a lot of sense.
To be clear, a disabling condition need not be incurred at work in order to qualify a person for benefits (unlike workers’ compensation). However, we may be able to significantly reduce the SSDI rolls if employers stepped up their game to make the workplace a safer place. Additionally, Manchester suggested that if employers could do more to encourage and support disabled workers, there would be less need for disability insurance. That might mean making certain accommodations such as flexible hours or improving disability accessibility.
As it stands, federal law does require that companies make reasonable accommodations for employees who are disabled. Additionally, a firm that uses private group disability plans may be offered insurer incentives to keep an injured or disabled worker on the job.
However, because of the way that SSDI is funded, through flat-rate payroll taxes on both employees and employers, employers don’t bear any burden of the costs associated with a disabled worker who goes on SSDI.
Comparatively, European countries have been reportedly given companies incentives to keep a person working by hefting some of the cost of disability benefits directly onto the company. For example, in the Netherlands, employers are mandated to cover the cost of disability benefits for at least two years.
In Switzerland, the SSDI equivalent charges high rates to companies that don’t offer its workers private short term disability programs, and lower rates for firms that do.
In other nations, employers that have high rates of disability actually get taxed more heavily by the government, providing even more incentive for companies to make safety a priority.
If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Could employers help cut SSDI claims? March 14, 2013, By Allison Bell, Life and Health Pro
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