Social Security disability is an insurance program. The full name states this explicitly. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. And like any other insurance program, the entity writing the policy controls the terms and conditions of the policy, including price of insurance, eligibility and level of benefits. In this case, the entity writing the policy is the U.S. Congress.
As a result, any problems with the performance of the policy are a result of actions taken by Congress and their responsibility to fix. The projected exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund in 2016 is one of those problems. Congress has known for decades that this event is coming, but it choose to do nothing.
Well, not nothing. It has held hearings, looking at ways to “reform” the program, as if it were a misbehaving delinquent. Some in Congress are sympathetic to the argument that some applicants are “gaming” the system and using it was an unemployment program
While the raw numbers in the disability program have increased to about 11 million, most of this growth was driven by the general population growth and the entry of women into the workforce, which made them eligible for the program’s benefits.
Critics like to point to the increase in applications during the last recession as evidence of the system being used to replace unemployment benefits, but the majority of applications are denied, and much of the increase seen in the program during the period of the recession matched the aging of the baby boom generation.
One study found that there have been no trends showing an increase in participants using age-adjusted incidence in the last 20 years.
Sadly, many of these unfounded attacks will not be used to solve the failure of Congress to properly fund the program, but will instead be used to further undercut SSDI and cause hardship for many who desperately need the benefits the program provides.
Source: alternet.com, “GOP’s New Attack on Social Security’s Disability Benefits: Exaggerate Number Of Claims,” Monique Morrissey / Economic Policy Institute, June 30, 2015