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SSD Eligibility: Most Applicants Have Bona Fide Claims

In the last two blog posts, we discussed recent criticism of the Social Security Disability system. In this post, we will touch on one of the most common and perhaps most harmful statements people have been making about SSD: "Many Social Security Disability applicants do not deserve SSDI and are being mistakenly awarded it, costing taxpayers money."

While not everyone who applies for Social Security Disability benefits is eligible, the statement fails to recognize the serious disabilities and illnesses that millions of Americans face. In the Journal of Health Policy and Law, Professor Jerry Mashaw (quoted in "Scapegoating Social Disability Claimants" by Jon C. Dubin and Robert E. Rains) made the point clearly:

        It is difficult to imagine that a person who can continue to work will instead leave
        work to seek disability benefits that pay (on average) one-third of the mean wage,
        require a six-month waiting period for application, a two-year waiting period for
        medical benefits, and provide any benefit to fewer than one-half of those who
        apply.

Most people who apply for SSDI would prefer to work. They face crippling disabilities and illnesses. They must go through an arduous approval process to receive the money they need to live outside of poverty (if they are able). They are only eligible for SSDI if they have worked a certain number of years in jobs that pay into Social Security. Very few people choose to go through this process to "rip off taxpayers," and those that do are rarely rewarded for their choice.

Societal costs to denying legitimate SSD claims

As Dubin and Rains explain, there are actually "significant societal costs" when legitimate applicants are denied Social Security Disability benefits. For example, the following increase when legitimate SSD claimants are denied:

  • Homelessness
  • Home foreclosures
  • Welfare recipients
  • Medicaid recipients
  • Health care costs
  • Evictions

"In addition," they say, "these costs also include the social malaise and frustration generated from a perception that the social contract has failed and that a government insurance system which most claimants have been required to pay into for decades on the promise of protection in the event of disability, has proven illusory."

The Social Security Disability program is a vital program for millions of Americans who cannot work due to disability or illness. There are very stringent disability guidelines and many eligible people must appeal their cases multiple times before they are approved. This means they must wait for months, oftentimes years, to receive the money they need to just get by.

Let's defend the SSD program, find effective - not damaging - ways to reduce the costs, and support those individuals who are forced to apply for SSD by events outside of their control.

Source: American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, v. 34, No. 3, "Scapegoating Social Security Disability Claimants," Jon C. Dubin & Robert E. Rains, Mar. 2012.

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