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How Will Budget Cuts to SSA Affect your Disability Benefits?

It's no secret that budget cuts are in the works for the Social Security Administration. The question is, will these budget cuts affect your Social Security Disability benefits and services? The answer to that question is yes. However, the news isn't all bad. If you're wondering exactly what you need to know in face of the recent SSA budget cut announcements, this is the information you've been looking for.

First, the Good News

The recent cost of living increase announced by Social Security is certainly welcome to millions of seniors around the country, but Social Security Disability recipients are not likely to see any direct change in their benefits other than the 3.6% annual Cost of Living Adjustment (or COLA) increase to their overall social security benefits.

The Cost of Living increase is applied to both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, don't look for huge increases in those benefits. This increase to benefits averages just under a $40 increase per month per recipient, and that equates to less than $500 a year.

The Downside

The year 2011 saw $1.7 billion in proposed cuts to the Social Security system. Anyone receiving Social Security Disability benefits knows how long it already takes the Social Security Administration to process claims. In today's troubled economy, millions of Americans are already waiting months, and sometimes even years, before receiving Social Security Disability payments.

Government employees working hard to process claims in Social Security offices around the country know that the situation will only grow worse with proposed budget cuts. An increasing baby boomer population, the troubled economy and an increasing number of applicants applying for Social Security Disability have placed increasing workloads on the already short-staffed Social Security Administration personnel.

The 2012 Outlook for Social Security Disability Payments

The good news, for now, is that according to President Obama’s 2012 Federal Budget, no huge changes have occurred in the Social Security Disability program, at least in regard to financial benefit levels. Through 2012, your Social Security Disability payments, as well as other benefits, will remain surprisingly consistent to previous years.

However, some disability recipients may see a difference in the level of benefits they receive. Severe budget cuts to the Social Security Administration may have an impact on services on a state-by-state basis, including slower processing times, increasing backlogs of extensions for hearings and a backlog in new disability claims. The processing times of new applications for Social Security Disability benefits are expected to increase as well.

Changes in Service Levels

According to Reuters Money, budget reductions and government furloughs for Social Security Administrative personnel have affected disability recipients in other ways other than financial issues. For example, suspension of annual statements of benefits, reduction of new offices to handle a growing backlog of disability claims and a reduction in the amount of overtime that Social Security Administration employees may access will reduce the amount of time that employees have to help answer questions or provide services to Social Security Disability recipients.

The bottom line is this: While your actual monthly benefit check may actually increase, your access to Social Security Disability employees and services is what will likely be compromised with the proposed cuts.