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.
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