The pot of money the Social Security Administration is using to fund Social Security Disability benefits is predicted to run out by 2016. This projected loss of funds for Social Security Disability is far sooner than Social Security retirement or Medicare. Unfortunately, if these funds dry up, more than 9 million disabled Americans will see their checks reduced 21 percent.
Since 2007, the social security disability rolls have increased by 23 percent. Part of the reason is the 77 million baby boomers that are now over 50 years old and reaching the social security disability program first. The bad economy is also contributing to budgeting woes of the Social Security Administration. Many people are struggling to find jobs and have lost their unemployment. Because they have conditions that make it difficult for them to work, they apply to see if they are eligible. Another contributor is the expanding acceptance of disabling conditions. The Social Security Disability program used to focus on those that suffered from strokes, cancer and heart attacks. Now it has expanded to cover those with depression, back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other subjective conditions.
The Social Security Disability program pays an average benefit of $1,111 per month. The program cost $132 billion last year. This is more than the combined annual budgets of the department of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Commerce, Labor, Interior and Justice. The $132 billion does not count the additional $80 billion spent on Medicare for those who qualified for the social security disability program.
If Congress does not act, the disability trust fund will run dry. Unfortunately, lawmakers are actively avoiding the topic. According to an economist, the social security disability plan has been running on autopilot for decades. Lawmakers can find ways to save and avoid the projected cuts, but neither President Obama nor House Republicans have addressed the disability program’s shortfall in their proposed budgets.
The good news is that “the administration believes that disability insurance is a vital lifeline for millions of Americans,” according to Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House Budget office. He also stated that the President is trying to work with Congress to strengthen the Social Security Disability program and protect its beneficiaries. Some in the Senate believe that the program’s finances are not as bad as they might appear. It is possible for Congress to funnel revenue from other departments to fund the shortfall.
As the 2016 deadline draws closer, Congress will take steps to preserve the program and save money. It is possible that one of these steps will be stricter requirements to qualify for disability benefits. If you are applying for Social Security Disability, an attorney can help keep you informed of these potential changes and meet any change in requirements.
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The Washington Post—Social Security disability trust fund projected to run out of cash by 2016. Read more.
BusinessWeek—Federal Disability Insurance Nears Collapse. Read more.
San Francisco Chronicle—Social Security Disability Insolvent Unless Congress Votes. Read more.