What Is The Future Of Social Security Disability Benefits In United States

Social Security Disability Benefits have long been a major source of relief for unfortunately disabled persons in United States. While it continues to suffer from many challenges, the economic downturn raised additional concerns about its future. As the state struggles to keep its obligations, further liberalization of benefits may be ruled out. However, with US economy showing positive signs of revival recently, there is greater hope...
What is the Future of Social Security Disability Benefits in United States
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Social Security Disability Benefits or SSDI have been a very effective system of insuring persons against unexpected disability as well as its financial consequences. However, they also face certain challenges that will need to be sorted out in future.

Social Security Disability Benefits – An Overview

Social Security Disability Benefits consists of two benefits - the SOCIAL SECURITY DISABLITY INSURANCE or SSDI, and SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME or SSI. They form the Social Security cover in case of disability. They are provided selectively depending upon the fulfilment of eligibility criteria of disability prescribed by the Social Security Administration.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is

a payroll funded insurance scheme administered by the Social Security Administration as per the mandate provided to it by the US Government. The aim of the program is to provide income during the period of disability that prevents the person from working, and guarantee an income for those who are unable to work again.

The SSA has formed certain criteria for granting the disability benefits to those suffering from disability. These include the presence of a medical condition that prevents the person from being 'gainfully employed'; a recognized medical condition lasting or expected to last beyond 12 months; age less than the age of retirement and the affected person must have worked for at least 5 out of the last 10 years. This is worked out by a complex formula.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) & Eligibility

Supplemental Security Income is an additional benefit that also requires the same disability criteria as in the SSDI. However, SSI is based upon the net income and wealth of the beneficiary, which must be below a prescribed limit for this purpose, indicating need for additional support. The criteria for children with disability are different for grant of SSI.

Other Benefits

There are certain other benefits that are also dependent upon the grant of main benefits like SSDI. Irrespective of age, persons receiving SSDI for over 24 months become eligible for MEDICARE benefits, including Part A (hospital benefits), Part B (medical benefits), and Park D (drug benefits). A person receiving SSDI benefits also becomes eligible for receiving the COBRA benefits after 18 to 29 months. A dependent of a person receiving SSDI may also be eligible for the disability benefits. - The retirement benefits of a person eligible for disability benefits may be higher because of the freezing of the accounts during the period of disability.

Challenges Faced By Social Security Disability Program

There are three main apparent challenges to the disability benefits programs.

(i) Social Security Disability benefits are one of the most common

reasons for administrative disputes and lead to maximum number of administrative appeals.

(ii) The period of waiting for grant of benefits is 90-120 days as per the SSA estimates. However, in practice it may take more than eight months to get the application for disability benefits disposed.

(iii) The third problem is related to rejections. Almost one third of the applications for SSDI are denied.

Future of the Social Security Disability Program

The future of Social Security Disability benefits are important for insuring against disability affecting people adversely. Thus, there is definitely enough justification for continuing with the program. However, the issues pertaining to delay in disposing the applications for disability benefits as well as the large number of disputes indicate an urgent need for review of the administrative setup.

The challenges related to delay, denial and disputes with those who claim social security disability benefits will need to be tackled in future. As of now, the standards are too stringent and the process somewhat rigid and bureaucratic, which often leads to a lot of heartburn in case of genuine claimants. Many of these applicants are not even in a position to dispute the judgment of SSA or resort of available legal remedies. Disability is a big moral depressant and any additional hurt in the form of denial of social security claims can leave the person emotionally drenched.

At the same time, the overall macro-economic climate is hardly conducive to social security programs in general and disability benefit program in particular. With unemployment rates rising, the priority of the Government is to create jobs that will keep the economy on its keels and generate resources that can then be diverted to social security programs. The social security related obligations of the state are already huge and constantly rising. Disability benefits then are unlikely to be liberalised, which means that stringent screening and selective admission of applications are likely to remain the norm in near future as well. It is also possible that if the economic downturn continues, some of these benefits may also be curtailed or diluted. Fortunately, the public sentiment and democracy will ensure that the disability benefits program does not suffer much damage.
 



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