When they won a majority in congress during the 2014 mid-term elections,
Republicans almost immediately went to work to attack the Social Security
Disability program. They moved to block replenishing funds from the Old-Age
Survivors Insurance Fund (Social Security Retirement fund) until Democrats
agreed to fiscal cuts. Without the transfer of funds between the two accounts,
SSDI would run out in 2016, leaving countless citizens without the benefits
that they need.
Now, just last month, Democrats have fired back with an unexpected proposal
that would end long-standing contention between the two funds: combine them. As
Talking Points Memo reports, the proposal to merge Social Security Retirement and Disability funds
would not only make Social Security solvent until 2033, but also reap
a number of other benefits.
Most notably, experts believe that combining the Social Security programs
would help public perception of the programs—which are commonly
seen as one body, anyway. "2034 [deadline] is for retirement, 2016
[deadline] is for disability, but way too often the public just hears
one number and so for many they don't actually understand that they're
two separate programs, they just think it's one program," Jason
Fichtner of George Mason University Mercaucs Center told TPM.
Not only would merging the funds help the public understand how the programs
work, but would also dispel the stigma attached to the SSDI program. Fitcher
noted a case in Puerto Rico that stemmed from an administrative glitch
and not actual fraud, in which residents were getting benefits for speaking
Spanish—which, stateside, is considered a vocational disability.
"I think from a Democrat's standpoint they are seeing the landscape
changing against them because the public perception is that D.I. program
is full of fraud, waste, and abuse," Fitcher said.
SSDI Continues to Face Opposition
There are a few anticipated cons to merging the Social Security Funds.
Charles Blahous of George Mason University published a recent paper exploring
the idea of merging the funds, concluding that pooling the two accounts
would cloud the responsibilities of keeping both accounts funded and functional.
Also, as TPM notes, the Democratic proposal is unlikely to find momentum
in the Republican-controlled legislature. However, the proposal does make
loud and clear that Democrats are ready to fight for the future of SSD—which
is likely to be a hotly debated topic come the 2016 elections.
If you or a loved one are interested in seeking Social Security Disability
benefits, then we encourage you to speak to our dedicated SSD lawyers at
Coats & Todd today. Our team has over 40 years of experience and have helped countless
clients recover the benefits they rightfully deserve.
Let us help you navigate this process.
Contact us today.