Social Security Disability benefits are a popular target for attack by those who are critical of government spending. Even media portrayals on 60 Minutes and National Public Radio show the Social Security Disability benefits program as riddled with inefficiencies and the recipients undeserving.
A closer look at the facts, however, shows that Social Security Disability benefits are a necessary lifeline for those who receive them and that the program is remarkably efficient.
Benefits not extravagant
Social Security Disability benefits are hardly extravagant. The average recipient receives $1,130 per month or $35 per day, according to the Social Security Administration’s statistics, and Supplemental Security Income benefits average $551 per month. The average disability monthly payment is barely over the federal poverty standards. The SSA reports that a disability award usually replaces less than half of the recipient’s former income. Even though the payments are modest, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that disability payments keep 3.4 million people in the U.S. out of poverty, and prevent millions more from being in “deep poverty,” defined as half the federal poverty level.
Recipients cannot work
The Center for American Progress, a non-profit educational institute aimed at advancing progressive ideas and action, issued a report that revealed that disability benefits recipients truly are unable to work enough to meet their basic needs. About 17 percent of disability benefit recipients worked at some point in the year researchers examined, but about 98 percent of those people earned less than $10,000 during the year.
Little fraud or waste
While many allege that waste is rampant in Social Security payments, the Government Accountability Office statistics show that the Administration is remarkably efficient in its payments. Benefit payments make up only 1.4 percent of the SSA’s entire operating budget, and the SSA Commissioner estimated that fraud accounted for less than 1 percent of the payments the SSA distributes. The GAO’s numbers support the Commissioner’s estimates.
Strictest benefit standards in the developed world
The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a forum where world governments address social, economic, environmental issues that arise as globalism advances, reports that the U.S. has some of the most stringent standards for receiving disability benefits in the developed world. Only South Korea has stricter standards. Despite misconceptions about the ease with which people receive disability benefits, the SSA reports that fewer than four in 10 applicants are approved for disability benefits.
Because the criteria for disability benefit eligibility are so strict and the rejection rates are so high, it is important for those who are disabled and cannot work to seek the assistance of a skilled Social Security Disability advocate when applying for benefits.
An advocate who is familiar with the application process can help ensure that the application is properly filled out and increase the chances of an applicant’s success in obtaining the benefits he or she needs. If you have questions about Social Security Disability benefits, speak with an experienced Social Security Disability advocate.