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Return to work could reduce SSDI numbers

The growth of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program in the last ten years has been problematic for the Social Security Administration (SSA). They are under pressure from Congress to adequately administer the program in a time of falling budgets, but rising demand for their services.

While the growth of SSDI is not unexpected, the funding for the program has not kept pace with the increase in the number of beneficiaries who now receive payments from the program. As a result, the trust fund for SSDI is almost exhausted, and that could result in benefits having to be trimmed if Congress does not provide additional funding.

One problem for SSDI is that it is a long-term disability program, meaning there are no short-term clients. Most recipients of benefits will only exit the program when they become eligible for the SSA's retirement program or die.

This means recipients may receive benefits for many years. The SSA has attempted to help individuals return to work, and a recent study has found that for some types of disabled workers, the support SSDI provides appears to help improve their health enough for them to return to work.

Those suffering from drug abuse or mental health problems had the best success, while those with chronic physical problems like heart or liver disease did not substantially improve their ability to return to work.

The difficulty for the SSA is to be able to develop effective tools to assess disabled workers ability to return to work and manage it within the financial restraints that Congress continues to impose. 

Source: LifeHealthpro.com, "Disability benefits may help some return to work," Allison Bell, January 27, 2014 

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