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Is the Social Security Disability Trust Fund in Crisis?

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As mentioned in earlier blog posts, Social Security disability is insurance funded by and paid to U.S. workers who are required to give up part of their paychecks to the fund.  For years, politicians and news analysts have stammered on and on about the Social Security disability trust crisis, and yet to date, no real solutions or changes have been offered.

The Bad News

The Wall Street Journal and a host of other news sources reported last week that the Social Security disability trust fund is going to run out.  And although this may seem like old news, it includes a timeline that was previously absent.  By 2016, it was projected, the fund would no longer be sufficient to pay all of the benefits it owes.  In fact, by that time, it will only be able to pay approximately 81% of the benefits.  This means that disabled individuals would only receive approximately 4/5 of the already modest payments and that the average disability benefit would likely fall below what is necessary to live above the poverty level.  The information came from a 258-page report from the Social Security disability trustees.  For voracious readers, the full text can be found here.

The Better News

The better, although not great, news is that if the Social Security Administration combines the Social Security disability trust fund and the old-age benefits trust, both programs would be able to cover their benefits payments in full until approximately 2033.  If the funds aren’t combined, old-age benefits can be paid in full through 2035; and as noted above, disability benefits can be paid in full for only two more years.  The then-Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, announced his support for such a change.

Now We’re Talking

The trustees’ report has Congress talking, which will hopefully lead to acting.  The issue is so important that many commentators think it will have a strong impact on the next election.  Many conservatives view the increasing number of disability claims as one of the core issues and problems with the system.  They argue that controls must be put into place to avoid the freeloading individual who prefers to live off of Social Security disability, rather than get a job.

In contrast, many liberals view the core issue as one of funding. They believe that Social Security disability provides legitimate resources to those most in need, and finding additional funds to cover these growing needs is the main imperative.  This is, of course, an oversimplification of viewpoints and many Congress members have opinions that fall between these extremes and are far more nuanced.

Ultimately, Chairman Johnson did his best to sum up a general consensus on the topic during a recent House committee meeting on the topic by opining that "Americans want, need, and deserve a Social Security program they can count on and understand."

Let Us Help

While we cannot influence Congress or predict the future, the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky PC and the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group can help on an individual basis by ensuring those applying for benefits or appealing benefits decisions have competent, aggressive representation.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. Please call (303) 534-1958 or complete a contact form on our website.

About the AuthorJoe Whitcomb

Joe Whitcomb is the founder and president of Whitcomb, Selinsky, PC (WSM). In addition, he manages the firm and heads up the Government Procurement and International Business Transactions Law sections. As a result of his military service as a U.S. Army Ranger and as a non-commissioned officer in the Air Force, he learned mission accomplishment. While serving in the Air Force, he earned his Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a Master’s in International Relations. His Master’s emphasis was on National Security and International Political Economics. After his military career, Joe attended law school at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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