Recent national media outlets have jumped on the fact that Social Security Disability applications have increased, blaming factors including the economy, unemployment and the idea that the receipt of Social Security Disability benefits somehow represents winning a lottery jackpot.  In actuality, the average monthly disability check is less than $1000–hardly a jackpot, especially when compared to the income a person could earn working.

Individuals with disabilities should not be discriminated against or made a national scapegoat when searching for the flaws in the Social Security Disability system.  Improving the adjudication system is a laudable goal, but it is only one factor in the complex process of achieving comprehensive Social Security reform.

As the working population ages and as the age eligibility for full retirement benefits inches upward, it is inevitable that we will see a continual increase in applications for Social Security Disability benefits and a corresponding increase in the number of individuals who are appropriately receiving benefits due to an inability to work.  As Vice President Hubert Humphrey stated simply and honestly many years ago “[t]he moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”


With thanks to Jon C. Durbin and Robert Rains who recently published an Issue Brief titled “Scapegoating Social Security Disability Claimants (and the Judges Who Evaluate Them) addressing these issues in March 2012’s American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

Campaign 2012

March 6, 2012

A new Harris poll shows that only 12% of Americans want to cut Social Security. All Republican candidates for President endorse cuts in Social Security.  What is wrong with this picture?  Social Security Disability Insurance is an entitlement program.  Individuals pay Social Security taxes to insure that if they become disabled, there is a government sponsored insurance plan from which they can draw.  As it stands, obtaining benefits is often a difficult and lengthy process.  Even when approved, the average monthly check is about $950.00.  Regardless of the amount an individual draws, it never comes close to replacing their income.  Reducing Social Security benefits would undercut the goals of assisting Americans when they are at their most vulnerable — when they are sick and unable to work and when they are older and less able to work.

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