Dissolving the myth of Social Security Disability

Dissolving the myth of Social Security Disability

New York City : NY : USA | Apr 14, 2013 at 11:02 PM PDT
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On April 14, the Buffalo News printed an article on its “Viewpoints” page discussing the solvency – or lack thereof – of the Social Security system; specifically, the Social Security Disability Income portion of the program and how it will run out of money in the next three years.

Apparently there are a number of myths and assumptions surrounding Social Security Disability that have people believing that Americans who receive SSDI are lazy, no-good bums rolling in cash and looking for an easy way out.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

To begin, with everyone who receives money under SSDI must have worked at least five of the past 10 years. The money they receive each month is based on the amount they earned while working. The reason they are receiving the money in the first place is because they are unable to work, not just refusing to – there is a big difference.

Secondly, the rules for being awarded SSDI are strict and require recipeints to prove that they are unable to work, which must include doctors' statements certifying the person is no longer able to work. And once a person has been approved to receive SSDI, every few years they must undergo a recertification process to prove that they are still unable to work.

And if it weren't difficult enough already, anyone who is approved to receive SSDI – the Social Security Office says about 41 percent of those who apply actually get approved – must wait six months before receiving their first check and are not allowed to have any kind of employment or earned income while on the waiting list. That's six months with no income, and any help given by Social Services must be repaid when the money starts coming in. Oh, and that first check does not come with any income during the waiting period. For example, if SSA determines a person is eligible to receive $1,000 per month income, then the first check will be for $1,000 and no more. The only time any back payment is included is in the case of a denial and subsequent appeal won by the client over the Social Security Office.

According to the Social Security Administration, there are currently some eight million Americans receiving Social Security Disability Income earning an average of around $1,100 per month – which is less than a minimum wage job at 40 hours per week. If Congress continues to sit on their hands and do nothing, those same eight million people will lose their sole source of income in about three years, which means they will be forced to turn to Social Services to survive.

SSDI recipients also receive access to Medicare; however, they must pay for the service each month, and the federal government only pays a portion of the bill, leaving the remainder for the patient to cover, causing an additonal exprense that is often beyond the patient's ability to pay in the quick order the health providers are asking.

SSDI does allow recipients to earn a little money – around $6,000 per year – before they start holding back any of the funds; but even that extra income may not cover all of the expenses.

Contrary to popular belief, SSDI is not a get-rich-quick scheme but a way to survive from one month to the next.

As someone who has been a part of Social Security Disability for a number of years, I would very much like to have a job that I could make a good living at instead of muddling through and hoping that my money and month end at the same time.

I find it ludicrous that members of Congress, who make a minimum of $174,000 per year – that's $14,500 per month – find it so necessary to find ways to take away what little I already get, considering they make more in a single month – and will never have to worry about an income – than I do in a whole year. One of Congress' supposed ideas to keep SSDI going is to cut checks by some 20 percent – that's over $50 per month on the average check. That $50 is no small change and can easily mean the difference in getting to eat or having a warm place to stay.

Congress doesn't pay anything into the Social Security system; they will never know the feeling of not having enough money to make it through the month or worry about whether or not they will even get that money because the rich lawmakers don't deem it worth their while to be bothered.

Social Secuty's issues can be easily solved by lifting the income limit – persons who make over $110,000 per year only pay the Social Security tax for the first $110,000 they make – and it wouldn't hurt for Congress to lend a hand either. Cutting checks or eliminating the program will not solve anything; it will only shift the burden to another federal program. As usual, the members of Congress are out of touch with their constituents, especially those who struggle each month.

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Social Security cards
Social Security cards. (Image: Reuters.)
Sherrill Fulghum is based in Niagara Falls, New York, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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