Recently, there have been many news stories about the rise in Social Security Disability (SSDI) claims. Many of these stories are critical of the SSDI system.
One editorial in USA Today states that there has been a 20 percent jump in the number of Social Security Disability recipients in the last five years, increasing from 8.9 million in 2007 to 10.7 million today. According to the article, Social Security "was never meant to be a continuation of unemployment benefits."
What these articles don't address is the fact that many applicants for SSDI have real disabilities and have spent years working despite the constant struggle with their disabilities. When those individuals were laid off from their jobs during the Great Recession, many were unable to obtain new jobs that supported their disabilities. They finally applied for the benefits to which they have been entitled for months, even years.
Furthermore, the news stories do not capture the full reasoning for the rise in SSD applicants. Applications have increased in large part due to changes in social trends. For example, there are more female workers and older workers than ever before.
As the opposing view to the USA Today editorial states, Social Security Disability "is a time-honored expression of our nation's commitment to help care for those who must stop working due to illness or injury. . . . We should work on fixing the problems and not join the current rush to condemn an entire system because of rare instances of abuse or mounting political pressures to cut federal spending."
Social Security Disability is more difficult to obtain today than it has ever been before. The standards are tougher, applicants must provide more medical evidence of their disabilities, and there are multiple appeals that many applicants must go through before they receive disability.
Do we want to make an already difficult process more difficult for the millions of people suffering from serious illness and disabilities? Perhaps now is the time to show compassion, not disdain, for this group of people - most of whom would rather be working than collecting SSDI checks.
Source: USA Today, "Opposing view: Disability benefits remains a vital lifeline," Charles Martin, Feb. 2, 2012.