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SSD crisis is over; now the real trouble begins

There are two crises involving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD). The first and most pressing are related in a roundabout way to the second. The first is the crisis due to the projected exhaustion of the SSD trust fund. The trust fund, combined with the current FICA tax receipts, pays the monthly benefit of the 11 million Americans who count on these payments to cover many of their essential expenses.

When the trust fund is exhausted, the only source of funding for SSD will be the monthly tax receipts, which can only pay about 81 percent of the current benefit. Congress has refused to act to fix this issue because many members prefer to pontificate over the other crisis, which was the growth in disabled workers in the program.

They liked to make it sound as if this growth has all been due to people "faking" disabilities, such as back injuries or mental impairments or the unemployed applying for SSD. As anyone who has applied and struggled for a year or more to obtain benefits knows, it is a very rigorous process. Audits of the program have shown that because of this arduous process, there is very little systemic fraud.

The program has grown, but its growth was expected and was due to changes Congress had made during the 1980s and 1990s. A new panel of experts has completed a study and found that that growth appears to have ended and the program will experience the first decline in 30 years.

While the SSD  program will not shrink significantly, its growth will flatten, which means Congress should be able to revise the funding formula and stabilize the finances for the next 60 or so years.

Source:, "Social Security panel: The crisis in disability is over," Michael Hiltzik, September 25, 2015

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