Social Security disability benefits are available to disabled workers who can no longer work. Disability benefits provide injured workers with cash and give workers access to Medicare, the government-subsidized medical insurance.
The disability benefits program, which was created in 1956, paid out $110 billion to disabled workers last year. A similar program called supplemental security income paid out $43 billion to adults and children in 2010, The Economist reports.
Some economists attribute the increase of disability claims to workers who use disability payments as a form of unemployment insurance. The amount of subjective injuries, such as back pain, increases during recessions and disability benefits rules allow older workers who are unlikely to be retrained to collect benefits instead.
Persistent applicants can also receive benefits with the help of an experienced lawyer. The Economist reports that 90 percent of disability benefits applicants who appeal their case to a judge are successful.
With disability funds expected to dry up in 2018, many economics have speculated on how benefits will be awarded moving forward. Possible changes to the Social Security disability benefits system may include:
- Employers who offer their own disability insurance.
- A “ticket to work” program that helps beneficiaries seek employment.
- Incentives to accommodate impaired employees at the onset of their disability.
Although there are looming budget issues for the Social Security disability program, many politicians view the program as a vital part of the American employment system and refuse to implement cuts, The Economist reports.
Many entitlement reform plans, such as the recent plan of Republican congressman Paul Ryan have held Social Security disability harmless. This indicates the popularity and importance of the program, which continues to help millions of disabled workers.
Source: The Economist, “Disability payments: The elephant in the waiting-room,” 3/10/11