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Social Security Disability Reform: Is Now The Time?

Posted on Sep 30, 2013

Congress is well aware that if no changes are made by 2035 to Social Security, many people will lose the benefits they need after retirement. While 2035 is long in the future, there is another impending depletion of Social Security funds in 2016. These are the funds that pay for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

SSDI is a program designed to protect against lost income due to disability. Both SSDI and Social Security funds for retirees come from payroll taxes. The retirement program is far bigger, with 10.6 percent of an employee’s paycheck going toward the fund. SSDI is smaller with only 1.8 percent going toward disability.

If the SSDI funds are depleted in 2016, about 20 percent of people will receive a cut in benefits. As members of a Massachusetts Social Security disability law firm, we worry about the impact this can have. This equates to nine million recipients and an additional two million dependents who rely on these checks.

According to Stephen Goss, the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary, reallocating just one-tenth of one percent would equalize the long-term outlook of both funds. This is something that has already been done at least six times in the past.

Disability continues to grow. Nine million disabled workers received benefits in 2013, which is up from 5.9 million a decade earlier. This has a lot to do with the aging baby boomer population, which is entering the ages where disability is more likely.

With a reallocation of the funds, lawmakers can avoid severe disability cuts while still having the time to determine a new approach to the retirement funds not set to be depleted until 2035. We urge national lawmakers to begin work immediately on this problem.


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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law