GAO Report - SSA Disability on Unsustainable Path

The news is rife with the problems facing the Social Security Administration today. According to the federal government's long-term fiscal outlook report, the Social Security Disability program is in real trouble. Payments for SSDI amount to over $124 billion, with an average disability payment to individuals ranging around $1,000 per month.

Unfortunately, in 2010, Social Security Disability beneficiaries received overpayments in the amount of over $5 billion, further hampering the fiscal stability and health of the Social Security Administration. Further information provided in the report specified that very few Social Security Disability recipients return to work, adding increased burdens on the system.

The health and wellness of the Social Security Administration and benefits programs is further hampered by the depressed economy, combined with a tidal wave of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), who are just now becoming eligible for Social Security benefits as well as growing numbers of individuals who are becoming disabled at younger ages.

At the growth rate estimated, the trust fund of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program won't have enough money in its coffers to meet obligations by the year 2018.

Who's Claiming Disability?

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, growing numbers of individuals applying for Social Security Disability benefits are filing claims based on mental problems, back injuries or pain. Mood disorders, depression, and back pain are difficult to quantify and evaluate, and, sadly, tens of thousands of fraudulent claims have the potential of making it through the system.

Evaluating and repealing such claims takes a large chunk of time from Social Security Administration claims adjusters and adjudicators who are in charge of processing such claims, making recipients wait even longer for their disability benefits to come through.

Disabled workers in the labor force as of September 2011 have reached nearly 6 million, and the recession hasn't helped. The most common types of disabilities, including hearing, vision, cognitive impairment, problems with mobility and those classified as severely disabled have placed an added burden onto the Social Security Administration's efforts to provide benefits to the disabled.

What do Social Security Disability Recipients Get?

SSDI recipients receive a monthly benefit check. They also are eligible for Medicare coverage after two years, regardless of age. In 2011, the SSDI disability program paid out approximately $130 billion in benefits, while the trust fund took in approximately $110 billion in taxes. As mentioned earlier, the GAO report determined that over $5 billion was overpaid to beneficiaries in 2010. While the Social Security Administration is working to recoup those funds, chances are that they will never see them.

The Social Security Administration is encouraging employers to help employees get back to work, whether they've received workers compensation or not. Reforms suggest that new SSDI enrollment could he reduced by up to 25% or more if employers received incentives to help workers get back to work rather than relying on Social Security Disability Insurance. In many cases, SSDI should be available to help individuals get back on their feet and return to the workforce, and individuals and employers should be encouraged to resist filing for permanent disability status unless it's absolutely necessary.