21% Cut in Social Security Disability Benefits Now Certain

July 9, 2012 · by rosenblumlawfirm · in

Last April, the trustees of Social Security and Medicare announced that beneficiaries of those programs face a cut in their benefits of about 25% by 2033 if Congress did not act.

However, deep within that report was an estimate that those who receive Social Security Disability Benefits would see their checks reduced by 21% within four years.

This dramatic drop in benefits is due to the burgeoning number of individuals now filing for disability.

There are several factors behind the explosion in disability claims.

For starters, the definition of “disability” was recently broadened, unemployment benefits now come with an expiration date, and the Great Recession has taken its toll on the job market.

Moreover, Pamela Villarreal of the National Center for Policy Analysis also cited the lack of accountability by the Social Security Administration and Congress’s unwillingness to face the problem.

According to Ms. Villarreal, since the mid-1950s, the program has expanded and now covers workers under the age of 50, disabled spouses of deceased workers, and disabled children who were never able to work.

Furthermore, Social Security Disability Benefits now include physical as well as mental impairments. However, even with advances in treatment, very few people who receive benefits ever leave the rolls.

Claims for mental disorders have more than tripled from 10% of cases in 1982 to 32.8% in 2012. Half of these were based on “mood disorders” like depression and anxiety.

Additionally, back or neck “problems” shot up by 31% and were the top cause of disability for 50- to 64-year-olds.

Depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems increased by 20%. They now constitute one-third of all disability claims.

Critics suggest that these claim increases are simply due to people attempting to milk the system when their unemployment benefits run out.

However, others are less cynical but equal worried about the Social Security Disability system. They strongly believe that these individuals are not filing frivolous claims and truly are deserving of Social Security Disability Benefits.

Nevertheless, these individuals also worry that the large influx of disabled individuals coupled with the expansion of the term “disabled” has led to a problem that Congress is unwilling (or unable) to fix.

Ultimately, unless Congress acts in the near future, individuals who currently receive Social Security Disability Benefits will see their checks slashed by 21%.