Social security disability benefits that are granted after a stringent medical records review are a lifeline for many disabled Americans. However, now many workers are considering the pros and cons of applying for SSDI. The growing costs of SSDI – around $143 billion in 2015, along with billions for Medicare, which SSDI recipients receive – and the reasons for the rising costs have been much discussed and debated. There are official forecasts showing that the disability portion of the SS Trust Fund will be exhausted by the year 2022.
Observers believe that the Social Security disability program needs reform, especially from the point of view of the fact that the country’s long-term economic potential depends on making sure that work pays for all people who are willing to work. The disability program rules require that applicants must be totally unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity. This means that potential recipients have every reason to stop working completely to qualify and also avoid rehabilitation in case they lose the cash benefits and health care provisions. The truth is that only a small percentage of SSDI beneficiaries return to the work force once they leave. It is estimated that at present, the typical SSDI recipient is a middle-aged worker whose main disability is musculoskeletal or psychological.
The disability program reforms should seek to bring back this group of physically or psychologically challenged but employable people to the labor force. The program should ideally not give applicants a binary choice between work and benefits. Benefits, including health insurance should be phased out slowly as their wages from employment increase. Such a plan was proposed by economist David Autor and Mark Duggan. This plan that relied partly on subsidized private-sector disability insurance was presented in a 2010 paper jointly published by the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress.
The main objective of the reform is not budget savings, though that may be achieved in the long run. The aim is to strike a better balance between what is spent to support people for whom work is not a viable option, and the resources devoted to help people with disabilities retain the dignity and earnings that come from work.
As providers of medical review services to social security disability lawyers among other clients, it is with a keen eye that we keep track of all the developments and reforms in the social security sector. The Social Security program has immense significance in that it is there throughout the life of a benefit recipient, putting him/her in complete control of their finances and future.