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SSDI and the broken system can it be fixed?

When Barak Obama took office 40% of the population was receiving some type of government assistance. That number now has risen to 55%. There is a wide array of programs that now encompasses what many of us consider “welfare” but another problem is what some think of as an “entitlement program” called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Since President Barak Obama entered the White House in January 2009 through September of this year, 5.9 million people have been added to the SSDI or Social Security Disability Insurance. If you add the dependents of these disability recipients SSDI now pays benefits to 10.9 million individuals.

Helping those who are truly disabled is a noble goal, although at the current pace it is unsustainable, not matter how noble. According to the SSA, there are a record one in fourteen workers getting SSDI. The SSDI program is funded by payroll taxes but workers are only paying a 1.8% payroll tax. What does this mean for the future of the SSDI program? Experts estimate that the program trust fund will be gone by 2015.

Politicians don’t want to talk about the real issues. Avoiding debt ceiling and budget talks seems to be the speciality of the spineless politicians who are now walking the halls of the capitol, but it’s obvious something must be done.

The goal should be getting workers back on their feet and working. But according to reports only 6% of SSDI recipients returned to work in 2011 and 3.6% exited the program due to medical improvement. That leaves 36% leaving the program due to death and the remaining 52% having their benefits transfer to SSA retirement benefits.

Part-time work and SSDI

One of the most common questions I receive from disability recipients is, “Can I work part-time?” Although the SSA allows for very part-time work, those SSDI recipients who work too much or make too much money are jeopardizing their benefits.

While the SSA is one of the few disability benefit programs which has an all or nothing disability benefit policy, it may be time to reevaluate that policy. Many workers are unable to perform full-time work eight hours per day for five days per week but are able to perform some part-time work. Why can’t the SSA create a way to encourage workers to return to the work if only on a part-time basis?

The Role of Fraud

Another problem with the SSDI system is the prevalence of fraud. Every day on the disability forum I have users that report they have a friend or know someone who is able to work and chooses not to.

During a hearing on “combating disability waste, fraud, and abuse” the Office of the Inspector General noted, “We know there are individuals who will purposely withhold or fabricate information to collect government benefits they are not entitled to receive.”

According to reports much of the ongoing program cheating comes from those who continue to collect disability payments but are stealthily employed on the side. This goes back to the issue I touched on previously, maybe if the SSA created a partial disability payment system workers who wanted to work part-time could do so and still receive partial disability benefits.
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