With Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), most of the media commentary is critical, complaining that the program has grown in size and expense and alleging that there is much fraud and abuse. But rarely do the critics manage to provide any clear evidence of this fraud. At most, they point to a few anecdotal cases. Of course, with more than 11 million beneficiaries, it is always easy to cherry pick a few obvious cases.
However, a recent opinion piece from the Washington Post suggests an alternative way of looking at SSDI. The writer suggests that SSDI’s problem is that it should be enlarged and better help those who are severely disabled.
He notes that SSDI and Social Security in general were designed as part of a “three-legged stool” system, with private pensions, private savings and Social Security ensuring Americans did not suffer and become homeless and indigent because of old age or infirmity.
Most companies have eliminated pensions and for many individuals, personal savings are difficult to accumulate due to the poor labor market and job losses. This leaves Social Security, which has been under constant attack, often by those who would loot the system and leave the old and disabled with nothing.
One reason for the growth of SSDI is the diminishing prospects of many workers who have been rendered disabled by some manual labor occupation. Because of the weak job market, even with retraining, they may be viewed by employers as unattractive prospects. They would have to compete with the many young graduates who themselves are having difficulty finding employment.
For many, SSDI benefits are desperately needed, but for some they remain less than optimal, barely allowing them to get by. Congress must act soon, as their delay and inaction have left the SSDI system precariously balanced on the edge of cuts to many that would be deeply troubling.
Source: The Washington Post, “The next big fight over the safety net,” Greg Sargent, May 20, 2014