This guest post is by Mr. Gene Maryushenko at Fisher & Talwar.
Several new headlines, including an earlier post right here by Mr. Jim Loxley have pointed to the gnawing fact that SSDI trust fund is expected to run out within the next 4 years – unless something is done about it. Today, the congressional blog “The Hill” featured a post about how misinformation has led to increasing attacks on the disability program. Former Democratic representative Charlie Melancon has expressed an opinion stating that the old “cut waste, fraud and abuse” rhetoric has become quite dangerous in the context of SSDI.
With budgeting shortfalls, the federal government has been desperate to trim “waste and abuse,” perhaps arguably ignoring the issue of Social Security Disability Entitlement fund running out. There is no argument that the unemployment rate is closely associated with increasing Social Security disability claims. A White House report (Figure 5) shows suggestive evidence that those nearing the end of unemployment benefits collection are much more likely to apply for SSDI benefits. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people are desperate to survive in our current economy despite the legitimacy of their disability claims. However, Melancon argues the claims that qualification is easy and points to the heightened screening measures taken on by the agency since the early 80’s. The “budget hawks” – as Melancon puts it, are eager to cut some of the most important programs such as SSDI with claims that it is festered with abuse and waste.
Every Good Cause is Worth Some Inefficiency
Those eager to cut the program point to inefficiencies of over 1.4 million backlogged benefits reviews – resulting in many continuously collecting disability benefits despite recovery from injuries. Some are also quick to point out that the program unfairly prevents homeless who actually qualify for benefits from receiving them, because many don’t have access to a doctor – the only authorized individuals to access a medical claim. Most agree that the process for evaluating a claim is very difficult because there is a considerable difference on an individual basis in what constitutes a disability.
According to the RAND Center for Disability Research, many applicants come from a background of extremely low-paying jobs and seek the agency’s aid in medical coverage through Medicare (available after a two-year waiting period). The easy access to Medicare by qualifying disability beneficiaries has put a strain on an already costly program and last year amounted to nearly $212 billion dollars in spending combined.
Either way anyone argues it, once the funds run out the Social Security program is going to take a 21% cut in benefits, affecting nearly 11 million people, many of whom have legitimate claims and are very concerned.
In my opinion, the federal government is going to patch up the problem as it always has with the tax dollars of working Americans, in hopes of creating a more comprehensive plan later. Whether this quick fix will allow for enough time to fix the larger issue at hand is questionable. Perhaps the federal government will take a closer look at its discretionary spending for a more permanent solution.
What do you think? How should the government go about solving this problem?