Cutting Social Security Disability A Mistake
As the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaches, Democrats and Republicans are looking for areas of the budget that can be cut back in order to help balance the budget. At the moment, no concrete decisions have been made, because the two sides have not been able to reach an agreement. Many believe that entitlement programs should be the first cut, with some politicians targeting the Social Security Disability Insurance benefits program. Those in favor of these cuts cite the increasing number of non-disabled claimants receiving benefits. However, these arguments fail to take into account the fact that the number of Social Security Disability cases are increasing because the baby boomer generation is getting older and more susceptible to injury and illness. In addition, more women are working today than ever before, increasing the number of potential recipients. In addition, critics tend to forget about the consequences of cutting funding to a program like Social Security Disability. Not only will disabled workers who are currently collecting benefits suffer, but society at large will also be affected by any cuts. Programs like Social Security Disability prevent disabled workers from relying on other programs like welfare. It also prevents larger societal issues like home foreclosures, evictions and bankruptcies. In some cases, Social Security Disability Insurance is the only thing standing between a family and homelessness. In fact, earlier this year the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty released a report showing that denying Social Security Disability Insurance benefits perpetuates homelessness. The study showed that up to 40 percent of the national homeless community could qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but only 14 percent actually receive them. An unfortunate number of Social Security Disability claimants have worked low-wage, labor-intensive jobs most of their lives. Others suffer from severe anxiety, depression and paranoia, sometimes due to a lifetime of domestic abuse, other times due to direct involvement in war or other violence. Such claimants are isolated from the world around them, and Social Security Disability is their only means of providing for themselves. Many critics of entitlement programs, like Social Security Disability, also tend to forget that Social Security Disability differs from programs like welfare in significant ways. The most significant difference is the way in which the programs are funded. Employees pay into Social Security, through the Social Security payroll tax. As a result, recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance are essentially seeking money that they paid into the system. Welfare, on the other hand, is typically state-funded through general taxing, so those collecting welfare are not paying into the system. If any cuts to the Social Security Disability Insurance program are approved, people will not have access to the benefits they contributed o while they worked. Cuts would also create a loss of integrity in a system that already struggles to fully educate beneficiaries about the work incentives that are available to them if and when returning to work is possible. While stabilizing the national budget should remain a priority, the economic and societal costs of cutting funding for Social Security Disability Insurance are high enough to outweigh the initial cost-savings achieved.