Tucked inside the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill passed late last week by Congress was an item that has not been in a budget for nearly a decade: a funding increase for the Social Security Administration, an agency bedeviled by staff shortages that have contributed to a crushing backlog of disability claims stretching past 1 million.

The omnibus appropriations bill increased funding to the federal agency by $480 million, bringing its overall administrative budget to more than $12 billion. Roughly $100 million of the increased allocation will target the disability hearing backlog, in which claimants on average wait around 600 days for a judge to decide whether they will receive benefits including health insurance and a monthly payment.

The funding comes amid a hardening stance across the nation toward recipients of public benefits. Several states, including Kentucky and Arkansas, have moved forward with work requirements for Medicaid recipients, and the Trump administration has called for a dramatic slashing of the social safety net.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking non-Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, and the leading proponent of the funding increase, said he became committed to securing additional money for the understaffed agency after reading an article last year in The Washington Post, which examined the personal cost of waiting for a disability decision and reported that 10,000 people had died waiting during fiscal year 2017.

“I could not believe that 10,000 people died,” he said. “It was beyond belief and unacceptable.”

Recent numbers released by the Social Security Administration indicate that :

  • Nearly equal numbers of women and men now collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits
  • Percentage of women insured for SSDI has increased dramatically between 1980 and 2017
  • Women receiving SSDI are more likely than men to qualify due to mental and musculoskeletal impairments

From USA Today:

Social Security provides critical benefits to millions of retired seniors. But relying too much on those benefits could spell trouble once your career comes to a close.

Unfortunately, it seems like a large chunk of women are doing just that. An estimated 62% of female workers expect Social Security to be their primary source of income in retirement, according to new data from Nationwide. Worse yet, 18% of women are looking to Social Security to provide more than 90% of their senior income. That’s just downright unrealistic.

Social Security alone can’t pay the bills

Contrary to popular belief, Social Security was never designed to sustain retirees in full. Rather, it was designed to supplement seniors’ income. These days, those benefits will replace roughly 40% of the typical worker’s pre-retirement income. Most seniors, however, need more like 80% of their previous earnings to live comfortably — and by “comfortably,” we’re talking about having enough money to cover all basic living expenses. Those wishing to travel extensively or engage in a host of leisure activities will need considerably more.

And that’s precisely why it’s so dangerous to rely so heavily on Social Security. These days, the average recipient gets just $1,404 per month, or $16,848 per year. If you’re among those women who expect Social Security to cover upward of 90% of your expenses, you may want to reconsider — and start ramping up your savings game.

A recent New York Times article suggests that people who cited health reasons for not working are returning to the workforce.

The rise in the number of Americans not working because of disability was so persistent for two decades that some economists began to hypothesize that the trend would never reverse.

But perhaps it has. Since a peak almost four years ago, that number has steadily fallen, showing its largest decline — both in terms of head count and percentage — in at least the last 25 years. It’s good news, but it also raises important questions about how much further the labor market has to heal.

For the entire article, go here:  https://tinyurl.com/yb3epcvn

I haven’t been to a national conference in two years and I didn’t realize how much I had missed getting together with colleagues.  Presenting with John Pennington, an attorney in Birmingham, was a great experience.  It was the first time that we spoke together and our session went over well.  I attended numerous other sessions and came away from Atlanta with new ideas about how to improve my client’s chances of winning cases.  I need to get back into the habit of attending on a yearly basis.  Next Fall, I hope to go to NOSSCR’s 40th Anniversary Conference set in New Orleans.

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