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Out of context, $3.2 billion sounds like a lot of money

A line buried in the president’s budget will prevent a disabled worker who receives Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits and unemployment insurance benefits at the same time. Politicians have apparently decided that this is impermissible “double dipping” and it must be stopped to save taxpayers $3.2 billion dollars. Sounds good. Double dipping seems inherently unfair and $3.2 billion seems like a lot of money.

However, that $3.2 billion is over ten years and represents one seven thousandth of the federal budget during that time. And let’s look at who is being targeted by this cut. A worker in Ohio suffers disability. They obtain SSDI benefits, and their condition improves enough that they can return to a job or they receive training that allows them to find another line of work. Great. But then, the weak economy causes the employer to impose layoffs. 

They have worked, and so are entitled to an unemployment benefit. If they were earning less than $1,070 per month, they would still be eligible for SSDI. What is the problem with their receiving what is very likely a minimal unemployment insurance benefit?

These programs are designed to help workers who have a disability or have lost a job, and they should not have their meager circumstance reduced even further by poorly informed politicians who whine that some people on SSDI also receive unemployment insurance. If they qualify for both, there is no problem.

If the politicians feel it is such a great deal, perhaps they should offer to trade one month of their paycheck with a disabled worker in Columbus and perhaps they would understand better that the benefits are neither overly generous nor are the circumstances one they would happily endure.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “The attack on the disabled buried in the president’s new budget,” Michael Hiltzik, March 5, 2014

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