It is a somewhat uncomfortable truth that most people on Social Security disability (SSD) are really ill. They suffer various ailments, whether mental, physical or a combination of both. They are on the program because their condition makes it impossible for them to successfully hold a job.
The SSD program is in place to ensure that they have some financial resources. The average benefits payment is only slightly above the federal poverty line, so receiving the benefits are not going to make anyone wealthy, but they can make a significant difference to those who may have few other options and preventing someone from becoming homeless.
The program faces challenges, with the impending exhaustion of the SSD trust fund within the next year or so, and the program needs to update some of the administrative tools that are used to determine eligibility for the program.
For instance, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the Listing of Impairments and Medical-Vocational Grid to evaluate applicants for the program. The Listing of Impairments consists of medical conditions that are sufficiently severe in their consequence that if you have one of the impairments and you meet the other eligibility requirements, you are likely to be granted disability benefits.
But as a percentage of total applicants, fewer qualify under the Listing of Impairments. More applicants now must be processed under the Medical-Vocational Grid, which is a much more complex process.
These disability determinations require consideration of your work experience, training, education, age and medical conditions. Many applicants rely on the assistance of an attorney because of the complexity of the application, and the necessity of assembling the documents in a coherent and complete narrative that supports your case for disability benefits with medical evidence.
While updating the grid could make determinations more efficient, it is unlikely that it would substantially reduce the numbers of workers on the SSD program. The changes in the job market may actually be increasing the numbers who qualify for SSD, as there are fewer physical labor jobs and disability applicants may not have the educational background or live in areas of the country that provide deskwork or other more sedentary employment.