Can we afford to cut the SSD program?

Cuts have been proposed by the administration for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The reasons for the cuts appear poor. There are allegations that the program is growing, is out-of-control, that there is fraud, that the program is too easy to grant benefits and that it encourages individuals to quit working.

None of this holds up to scrutiny. And young, healthy workers should all be concerned. Because, despite the fact that few people ever believe they will become disabled during their working career, statistics show that a worker in their 20s has a one in three chance of becoming disabled.

Because the program is designed as an insurance program, it is not a welfare handout or an entitlement. Every worker who completes the necessary number of quarters of work is eligible for benefits, but these are benefits that workers paid for, not merely handed out to anyone who applies.

The program grew in the last three decades largely because of the demographics of the baby boom generation. As they aged and the wear-and-tear of decades of work took their toll, some of them applied for disability benefits. This was only fair.

In addition, millions of women went to work in the 1970s and 1980s, and they too became insured for benefits. Now in their 50s and 60s, they too, suffered injuries and illnesses that left them disabled. This all contributed to the growth of the program. Congress, too, contributed when they raised the retirement age from 65 to 66, as that means disabled workers remain in the SSD program an additional year.

However, the number of people on Social Security disability actually started to drop in early 2014 as the Baby Boom generation moved into their retirement years. That downward trend is continuing.

The SSD program is rated as the second most restrictive disability program in the industrialized world. No one who has examined these systems would find it too generous with its benefits or that those benefits are too easily obtained.

This is why many disabled workers have to rely on the assistance of an attorney when applying for benefits or appealing a denial. Reducing accessibility to the program will not save a great deal of money, but will make life more difficult for many who already have been dealt a bad hand by life.

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