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Crumbling of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund

Crumbling Trust Fund

As a attorney who specializes in Social Security disability claims in San Diego and Temecula, I find it disheartening that the Social Security trustees recently found that the cost of the disability insurance program (providing coverage to 11 million workers and dependents) would exceed the amount coming in from payroll taxes by the beginning of the year.  In 2016, the disability insurance trust fund is estimated to run out of money completely.

As it has in the past, Congress can restore the trust fund by adjusting the share of payroll taxes that flow to the Social Security retirement and disability accounts. However, the report depicts the upsetting growth trajectory of the disability insurance program which paid out more that 20 percent of all Social Security benefits, retirement and disability combined.

The increase in program costs is disturbing; especially in a time when jobs are becoming less physically demanding, the population is becoming healthier and the technology enabling people with disabilities to work has improved.

Due to the interwoven nature of the Social Security retirement and disability systems, it would be best to conquer both problems and establish that both have a lasting financial foundation. The disability program is in dire need of updating, with a system designed to encourage those with disabilities to find work rather than penalize them.  At present, other than the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers have no incentive to accommodate workers with disabilities. Because of the current either/or attitude of disability determinations, workers are effectively required to give up on efforts to stay in the labor force, even to be eligible to obtain benefits.  Final determination can take years and if denied, the applicants’ ability to rejoin the workforce has greatly diminished.  Those who are granted benefits are discouraged by the rules from finding appropriate work.

The fact remains this is a needy population.  Benefits are modest; 60 percent of those receiving them have at best a high school education; and almost one-fourth live below the poverty level.  The disability insurance programs must be strengthened and supported, not allowed to crumble.



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