As we noted last week, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is under attack. Whether a direct assault arguing it is too big and too expensive, or the more subtle grounds that it needs to be "reformed," which is in essence, the same thing, the goal is to reduce the $140 billion the system spends every year on disabled workers.
Oddly enough, the reason true reform is so difficult is also the same reason why the program is so difficult for new applicants to obtain disability benefits. Applying for disability is complex because you have to describe your work and medical history and demonstrate why you can no longer work in any job. With many conditions, this is generally not a simple proposition.
If you have a medical condition that has a complex diagnosis, or even one that lacks clear cause-and-effect symptoms, your application may have to contain numerous medical records and tests that point to your inability to continue working.
Assessing the effect of this condition on your ability to work necessitates understanding the type of work you did, the type you may be able to do with this condition, and whether that experience and your education and training make it reasonably likely that there are other jobs in your area for which you would be qualified.
And this is why it is so difficult to "reform" the SSD program. Because to qualify for SSD, you have to be found disabled for a minimum of 12 continuous months. This means there are no "easy cases," that we can toss out of the program.
Next week, we will look at more on this issue.
The Washington Post, "Republicans want to reform disability insurance. Here's why that's hard." Thomas F. Burke and Jeb Barnes, February 17, 2015