Why is there a crucial need for SSDI reform?
It is projected that in only one year the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fund will be completely depleted. Unless steps are taken in the immediate future, this will mean a 19 percent reduction of SSDI benefits in 2016. This means a crisis for 11 million Americans who are disabled and now receive Social Security Disability Benefits. These individuals, through no fault of their own, will lose a significant percentage of the monies they receive to cover payments for their housing, food, and care. The income of almost a third of our most vulnerable citizens will be reduced to below the poverty level. In a society that prides itself on freedom and compassion, this is clearly not acceptable.
SSDI is currently funded by payroll taxes of employers and employees at a rate of 6.2 percent. A large portion of the amount, 5.3 percent, is allocated to Social Security's Old Age and Survivor benefits, while only .9 percent is designated for SSDI.
There are a number of reasons that the claims for SSDI benefits have catapulted in recent years, heightening the crisis. These reasons include:
- Some alterations (believed by some to be relaxations) of rules qualifying individuals for disability benefits
- Increased awareness among the population that such benefits are available
- A generally larger workforce
- Fraudulent claims
Fraudulent claims have become, unfortunately, a big business, bilking the SSDI coffers of millions of dollars annually. In addition, there appears to be a certain amount of wastage and careless recordkeeping. A 10-year study by the Social Security Administration found that almost half of beneficiaries were being overpaid during that time.
In addition to the need to cut waste and increase funding so that disabled individuals can continue to live in comfort and dignity, there are other changes that could improve the failing system. Many disabled people are able to work, albeit in somewhat limited capacities, and should not be discouraged from doing so. The current system has established a very low income threshold, just over $1,000 per month. Any individual earning over this amount loses his or her benefits. Since the amount is not sufficient to sustain self-support, many people who might otherwise seek gainful employment cannot do so because working would force them to relinquish their benefits. The result is that they continue to depend exclusively on SSDI.
Several ways of addressing the SSDI crisis are being discussed, and, as usual, the two political parties seem unable to agree on how to solve the problems inherent in the system as it now exists.
If you are facing difficulties relating to collecting benefits due to you through the SSDI program, you don't have to face the complexities of the system alone. Please call the offices of Peña & Bromberg to receive expert guidance from one of our competent, compassionate attorneys. Proud to serve clients throughout the Central Valley, California region, we can be reached at 559.439.9700