Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is one of the largest federal programs providing assistance to people with disabilities and is one of a handful of federal programs funded by employer and employee contributions to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Recently, it has become apparent that current spending for federal programs funded by FICA collections has outpaced money coming into the program.
Government Intervention Needed for Social Security Availability
Rather than shore up SSDI with an infusion from the Social Security retirement fund as it has done in the past, Congress has voted against replenishing it. If they fail to act, disability payments (which already average only $1,146.00 a month) will have to be cut as early as 2016. Some, like Senator Rand Paul, claim that this budgetary shortfall is due to widespread fraud and abuse. Senator Paul even stated that “over half [of SSDI beneficiaries] are either anxious or their back hurts”, implying their claims are not legitimate. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) itself estimates fraud in less than 1% of cases.
Moreover, careful review of Senator Paul’s claims show them to be without merit. The Washington Post noted that increases in the number of beneficiaries in recent years is due largely to simple demographic factors. For example, disability claims typically spike between the ages of 45-64 and the baby boomer population recently filled this age bracket, causing a spike in claims. In addition, women have been in the workplace long enough to amass enough credits to start drawing from SSDI if needed, leading to another increase in beneficiaries.
Qualifying for SSDI
Qualifying for SSDI involves a rigorous review of both technical and medical eligibility requirements and it is not easy to qualify. Many applicants do not pass the technical eligibility requirement which requires an assessment of whether you are “insured” by the program. This simply means that you must have worked long enough and paid enough social security taxes to earn credits that qualify you for benefits.
If you are “insured” under the SSA, your claim is then assessed for medical eligibility. To qualify, your impairment must fall with the SSA’s published list of impairments and meet its definition of disability. Under SSA rules, a disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can result be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In making this determination, the SSA will also consider your past work experience, severity of medical issues, age, education, and work skills.
Nationally, approximately 70% of applicants are denied at the initial application stage. In 2014 only 32.16% of applications were approved. Given the difficulty of this burden, you may find it helpful to work with an attorney if your initial application is denied. Documentation of your disability, including evidence that you are unable to work, is the key to success.