Advocates for the disabled are watching the current federal budget process closely amid increasing evidence that cuts to some of the nation’s most critical social programs are on the agenda in Washington.
Last year, Social Security spending reached more than $2.5 trillion for the first time, accounting for 60 percent of the federal budget. However, the vast majority of this spending went to retirement benefits, for which recipients spent their careers paying via federal payroll taxes. SSDI benefits totaled just $143 billion, or about 4 percent of the federal budget. The Medicare program, primarily meant to provide health care to retirement beneficiaries, cost $707 billion, while Medicaid, which provides health care benefits to the disabled and economically disadvantaged, cost a little less than $400 billion.
While politicians derisively refer to these programs as “entitlement benefits,” it’s important to realize each of these programs are entitlements precisely because they have been completely funded by involuntary federal taxes deducted from your paycheck and earmarked specifically for these programs over the course of your lifetime.
Our SSDI lawyers in Massachusetts urge you to carefully consider the motivations behind the political rhetoric targeting these critical benefits primarily relied upon by aging employees nearing retirement age.
SSDI Benefits a Critical Lifeline for Massachusetts Workers
While it’s true that the number of people on disability has increase in recent years, it is disingenuous to pin the blame on lazy cheaters of the system. The increasing number of people on disability assistance is a simple matter of demographics: Population growth, an aging population of baby boomers, and an increasing retirement age that keeps older workers in the workforce longer.
Those who think the availability of these programs in not relevant to them should consider the fact that the government estimates 1 in 3 U.S. workers will die or require SSDI benefits before reaching retirement age. And these benefits primarily benefit older workers, with a worker twice as likely to be receiving benefits each decade after age 40.
Disability benefits have come under increasing pressure from the Trump Administration. While planned cuts to funding for Special Olympics made the news recently, it’s the cuts in benefits to millions of disabled Americans across the country that are of primary concern. Too often, those who are disabled are labeled and stigmatized as lazy. In reality, about 30 percent of the 50 million Americans with a disability are employed. By comparison, only about 75 percent of non-disabled are employed.
Our SSDI lawyer in Boston have written recently about the host of challenges already facing those forced to seek government benefits, including: Government use of social media to deny claims and increased bureaucracy leading to long wait times.
Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act aimed to improve employment prospects for the disabled, which report being unemployed at nearly twice the rate of the general workforce. Part of the issue is the low earning allowance permitted for those receiving disability benefits. Monthly earnings of more than $1,220 make an applicant ineligible for disability.
To start 2019, the average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit was just $1,234 a month.
There are also many misconceptions about how hard an applicant must look for work. The government’s test is Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which will consider whether an applicant is capable of doing any job locally available, not just the job for which an applicant is trained or experienced.
Those receiving SSDI benefits who attempt to return to work may also face loss of benefits. Several initiatives are aimed at reducing the risk of attempting to re-enter the workforce, including the Ticket to Work program, which will allow for some grace period for resuming benefits without having to start the process over by filing a new application.
Winning Disability Benefits in Massachusetts
Massachusetts disability attorneys are best able to make sure an applicant’s rights are protected at each stage of the process. With initial benefit denials commonplace, and the wait for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge approaching two years in Massachusetts, using qualified legal help can both shorten the wait for benefits and protect your rights to current and future benefits under the law should you attempt to return to work or should your disability status change.
The truth of the matter is that severe or chronic disability significantly impacts an applicant’s life, even when benefits are granted. By government estimates, a recipient is earning 77 percent less 10 years after disability. For multiple-income households, family income declines by nearly 30 percent and food and housing consumption decline by 25 percent,
Today, those most likely to receive benefits are ages 50-64. The rise of women in the workforce has also contributed to the increase in claims, as women now account for about half of all applicants, compared to fewer than 20 percent of applicants in the 1960s.
While we are currently in a period of economic growth that has resulted in a decline in the number of applicants, another argument politicians like to use when targeting benefits is that undeserving applicants seek government handouts in a bad economy. While statistics do support the notion that a bad economy increases the number of applicants, it ignores the fact that the economy has very little impact on the actual award of benefits, which is the determining factor when it comes to program costs.
As we have reported previously, the government has intentionally made the process of qualifying for benefits a long, time consuming, and frustrating ordeal. Only those whose financial survival depends upon it would seek such benefits and attempt to live on an income that amounts to less than the minimum wage.
Seeking qualified legal help at the outset of your case can best determine all of the benefits to which you are entitled. In some cases, an experienced personal injury law firm in Massachusetts may also be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits or file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf for additional damages. Structuring damage awards in such a way as to avoid disqualifying an applicant for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should also be important considerations.
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.