The Effects of the Economy on Social Security Disability (SSDI) Applications

The number of Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) claims has risen virtually hand in hand with unemployment figures, causing some to dub the program the “hidden welfare.”

In an article dated September 14, 2010, the Washington Post stated, “The number of former workers seeking Social Security disability benefits has spiked with the nation’s economic problems, heightening concern that the jobless are expanding the program beyond its intended purpose of aiding the disabled.”

All of this has government officials concerned that the burden on the program may prove to be too much. Despite that fact that statistically speaking roughly half of the claimants receive the benefits for which they apply, a dramatic increase in the number of applicants could place this previously self-funded program in jeopardy.

Established to help people with a ’substantial work history’ and ‘a medical issue that prevents them from holding a job for at least a year,’ this program exists on the funds paid in by those who are gainfully employed. An increase in the number of applicants coupled with a shrinking work force could spell disaster.

With an annual outflow of over $180 billion, SSDI contributes a significant amount to the United States economy. If the program were to be jeopardized, hundreds of thousands of people, who seemingly could not find work elsewhere, could find themselves without a means for support.

What this Means to Social Security Disability Claimants

If you have a pending social security disability benefits claim, you may find your wait time extended and the requirements for acceptance quite strict. The flood of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance can expect to wait anywhere from 9 months to four years to get a final answer and that’s for applications that were prepared correctly. Applications submitted with errors or missing information may find the wait time extended beyond that.

The Washington Post article states that, “Though policymakers anticipated the program’s rolls growing with the aging of the baby-boom population, they suspect the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy.”

The article goes on to state that social security administration officials are tightening their procedures to ensure screening out unqualified disability applicants. Applicants who submit claims with the proper terminology, proper supporting documentation and a cover letter detailing the highlights of their claim may find themselves in a better position.

The Origins of Social Security Disability Insurance

SSDI dates back to 1956. At that time a mere 150,000 Americans received benefits. Originally intended to help individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 who had spent many years in the workforce before developing “any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to be of long-continued and indefinite duration,” the program has changed dramatically over the years.

Often abused by those with political agendas, the program has seen changes from Congress that ultimately extended the criteria for eligibility by age, disability type and length of impairment. The result is a program that hit one million in 1966, 2.8 million in 1977 and more than 8 million disabled workers plus another million disabled adult children and disabled widows and widowers today.

Support for and Opposition to Social Security Disability Insurance

Opponents to the program argue that it has morphed from its original purpose–as that of a program designed to help the terminally ill and those who were unable to work in a permanent capacity—into a backdoor into the welfare program, where a significant number of individuals are virtually paid to not work.

While this assertion may anger those with a legitimate need, it has contributed to the tightening of requirements and has extended the time it takes to respond to claims as Social Security Administration representatives spend more time pouring over applications to ensure that applicants meet guidelines.

Proponents argue that it is not as though claimants get rich off the system with the average benefit paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 per month. They are also quick to point out that those who do qualify are merely receiving a benefit for which they paid and qualified for by working.

Stuck in the middle are the claimants facing legitimate hardship that must wait patiently for an answer to their request.