Reforming Social Security: A Proposal From Obama’s Former OMB Director

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits provide critical financial support to those who have become unable to work due to disability. But the SSD program has been under attack recently, even from some unlikely sources. As the former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during President Obama's first years in office, many would have considered Peter Orszag to be generally sympathetic to beneficiaries of SSD and other government safety net programs. But Peter Orszag recently authored an editorial that dissects what he perceives to be serious flaws with the SSD program.

As Orszag notes, the number of applicants for SSDI benefits has increased drastically over the past four years, while the number of disabled individuals has remained roughly the same. He gleans from this an implication that, in economically challenging times, those who are disabled but might continue to seek employment opportunities may choose instead to apply for SSDI benefits. And once an individual begins receiving SSDI benefits, he or she is incredibly unlikely to re-enter the workforce.

The problem with this analysis is that it may lack depth: it is possible that the increase in SSD applicants is due to an increase in aging baby boomers with disabling medical conditions that prevent them from remaining in the workforce. Other factors may be behind an increase in disability benefit applications.

For those who are currently receiving SSDI benefits, Orszag's attack on SSD applicants as well as attacks by other politically motivated groups will likely have limited effects. But for those applying for benefits in the future, the consequences could be significant. For more information regarding benefits or an SSDI benefits application, speak with an experienced disability benefits attorney.