Today, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece asserting that Social Security Disability benefits are unsustainable.
Unsustainable, as a buzzword, is an easy way to cloud meaning. It brooks no argument. It’s almost like an epithet in its psychological effect on the person to whom the epithet is directed. If the Wall Street Journal says that Social Security Disability benefits are unsustainable, well, it must be true.
But that’s not the way we see it.
The way we see it, the danger in using the word “unsustainable” when it comes to disability benefits lies in the coming changes that will inevitably be proposed to fix the program. And there are those who will likely argue that disability benefits are nothing more than a government entitlement program, like welfare. In the current political climate, government entitlement programs will face strict scrutiny among conservative politicians.
To be fair, the disability program probably does need to be fixed, along with the Social Security program as a whole, so that Social Security can survive over the next several decades. Shifting disability benefits to the private sector is one solution, the Journal argues, to cut down on perfectly able people from falsely claiming to be disabled and cheating the system. As the Journal implies, these are the people who are making disability benefits unsustainable.
We don’t have all the answers when it comes to fixing the program. But, as many Social Security Disability lawyers would argue, the mechanisms are already in place to prevent cheating.
The majority of initial applicants for disability benefits are denied. Then, there is reconsideration, in which the applicant seeks a reversal of fortune from a hearing examiner, who is trained not to approve everyone who knocks on their door. Finally, there are hearings before administrative law judges and even appeals courts if applicants are denied at the reconsideration level.
Indeed, mechanisms are in place to sift the disabled from those who are able to work.
That’s why the word “unsustainable” provokes us when used in reference to Social Security as a government entitlement program for those who don’t want to work or are simply unemployed. Our clients can’t work.