The Social Security system’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has been the recipient of heavy scrutiny over the past few years, especially from certain members of Congress who believe that funds are being wasted while providing a lifeline to many of the nation’s most vulnerable members.

With so many critical reports on SSDI coming out, it is hard to know what to believe about the system. Recently, the executive director of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives wrote in to one of Capitol Hill’s most popular publications to set the record straight.

Here are a few key facts people curious about the real status of the SSDI program can take away:

Fact No. 1: It’s not easy to be approved for SSDI benefits. In fact, only 40 percent of people who apply for benefits end up receiving them, which amounts to the lowest approval rate in 40 years. Only individuals with the most serious disabilities qualify for benefits, often with the help of disability lawyers.

Fact No. 2: The number of people receiving SSDI benefits has increased significantly mainly because of demographic changes, not the economic downturn. The aging baby boomer population along with more women entering the workforce is primarily to blame for the record number of SSDI recipients.

Fact No. 3: The SSDI program is grossly underfunded, which is the true reason why the integrity of the program is being threatened. The program received close to $1 billion less in funding than it requested over the past here years from Congress. As a result, 11,000 jobs have been cut and the SSDI program is not able to operate as it should.

These are just a few key facts that are important to remember about the SSDI program when you hear people questioning its validity. The truth is that the program provides a modest but essential source of income to disabled American workers who have nowhere else to turn. 

Source: Congress Blog, “SSDI: The truth behind media and political mischaracterizations,” Barbara Silverstone, August 25, 2014