Let the Political Wrangling Begin
On the first day of the 114th Congress, the House of Representatives put in place a procedural rule that will prevent any bills from being introduced that would transfer any funds from the Social Security Retirement Fund to the Social Security Disability (SSD) Fund. Now the politicians and pundits are being very vocal about the upcoming discussion.
What Is The Problem With Social Security Disability?
The share of the payroll tax assigned to the SSD trust fund has not kept up with the costs of the program. “In recent years, more workers have gone on the rolls. In part, this is because changing demographics have made more people eligible: As the Baby Boomers age, they are more likely to become disabled, and more women have worked enough to be eligible for the program.” In addition, the retirement eligibility age has risen.
After a number of reviews, it has been shown that the SSD program is poorly run. The time it takes for applications to be given a first review is many months, and with appeals for initial denials added in, the process can take years.
Over the past few years, Congress and various news outlets have looked into fraud allegations. Over the past two years, there have been two large SSD fraud rings indicted on federal charges, one in Puerto Rico involving about 75 people and one in New York involving over 100 people. There are accusations that a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and a Kentucky attorney colluded to approve SSD applications to make millions in attorney's fees.
Congress held multiple hearings in 2014 to review the records of Social Security ALJs. The hearings looked into the total number of cases ALJs were forced to review per year and the percentage of cases approved by each ALJ.
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) has stated that disability fraud is rampant. He sponsored legislation in the last session of Congress to increase punishments for disability fraud. “The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2013 that about 1 percent of benefits were fraudulently paid to people who could work.”
The Current Discussion
The first shot in the SSD discussion was fired by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). At an event in New Hampshire, Paul stated “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts – join the club. Who doesn't get a little anxious for work everyday and their back hurts? Everybody over 40 has back pain.”
In the 2014 annual report issued in December, “the Social Security Administration says 14 percent of disability beneficiaries suffered ‘mood disorders' and 27.7 percent had diseases of the musculoskeletal system or connective tissue, which would include back pain.”
Democrats have responded that Senator Paul's fraud information is incorrect. “The Inspector General of the Social Security Administration did a thorough investigation of fraud in the [SSD] program and determined that less than 0.3 percent of disability payments were improper.” The Government Accountability Office also performed a fraud investigation and “came up with similar findings.”
While the political wrangling has started, nothing has yet been decided. Having an attorney on your side to keep track of your paperwork and the possible changes to the SSD program can give you peace of mind. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.