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Disability Benefits: Right or "Entitlement"?

Posted by Peter Bohan | Mar 10, 2018

Social Security Disability is not “Welfare

Social Security Disability (SSD) is not a federal “welfare” program. SSD works like any other insurance program that you pay into while you are working (by paying FICA taxes), which then pays you disability benefits (“Social Security Disability Income” or SSDI), if you become disabled.

Origin and Purpose of Social Security Disability 

Social Security Disability is often referred to by politicians as a social “safety net,” designed to protect persons who are old or become disabled.

In ancient times, the Greeks gave “alms” to the old or disabled. The Romans gave corn. The Europeans established “alms houses,” and early in our history, so did we.

A Brief History of Social Security in the USA

It wasn't until 1935 (during the Great Depression) that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act, establishing for the first time, a formal government program for financial assistance to the old. In 1956 and in 1960, President Dwight David Eisenhower signed into law Amendments to the Social Security Act that extended financial benefits to persons who were disabled. In 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson established Medicare to provide medical benefits to the old.  And,Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program was established in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon to provide disability benefits to the poor.
Thus, from 1935 to 1972, both Republicans and Democrats gradually expanded the social safety-net to provide financial and medical benefits to the old, the disabled, and to the poor, because it was the right thing to do.

A society can be measured by how it treats its weakest members. Providing benefits to the old, the sick, the disabled, or the poor, should be a responsibility of high priority to all countries in the civilized world, and it is. In fact, the United States ranks 16th in the prevalence of disability in our society, compared to other countries such as Sweden, Norway, Germany, and England. [Ref: “Trends in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Disability Program.” Social Security Administration.]

The Scope of the Social Security Disability Program
In the United States, more than 66 million persons receive social security benefits each year, totaling approximately $960 billion in annual payouts. The Social Security Administration has about 64,000 employees and 1,500 offices across the country. There are 16,000 employees that just do disability determinations and who request 15 million records each year from health care providers. The annual budget of the Social Security Administration is $12 billion. 

What's Needed … More Funding and Staffing
Cutting down on waste and fraud in any government program is always a good thing, and no one would disagree with doing that in the Social Security Disability program. However, that will not “fix” the problem, because the problem is that the Social Security Disability program needs more funding from Congress and better administrative staffing throughout the country.
The support that Social Security Disability provides to the disabled, and the access it provides to disabled persons to Medicare (SSDI) and Medicaid (SSI), is a critically important social safety-net for the weakest members of our society.

​This is a call to action
. Vote for politicians who will support the Social Security Disability program and the social safety-net that it provides. Fight for what is right, and “do not go gentle into that good night, but rage, rage against the dying of the light.” [Dylan Thomas,1951.]

About the Author

Peter Bohan

Attorney since 1996; dedicated to representing Social Security Disability claimants before the Social Security Administration.

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