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SSDI to the Rescue!

In the August 2012 issue of Newsmax magazine an article appeared entitled “America: A Disabled Nation?”. Fleshing out the statistics in the article regarding the current state of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability program this is what the American taxpayer is up against. Allow me to apologize in advance for all the SSA acronyms in this posting. Bureaucrats are rendered inoperable without acronyms! To call the disability program perverse is a gross understatement, in my view. About 5 million more workers have joined the ranks of disability beneficiaries since President Obama took office in January 2009, adding to the approximately 4 million workers already on disability which is a striking addition in such a short time.
The definition of who is too disabled to “do any substantial gainful activity in the national economy” (the loose and imprecise SSA standard to which benefits are awarded has been broadened over the years to cover depression, chronic back pain, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc., etc., etc.). With this subjective standard (a Laundry list of disabilities that can’t show up on an MRI) the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who preside over SSDI appeals apply this standard to the SSA Rules and deny approximately 50% of disability appeals nationwide, yet there are still about 9 million disability beneficiaries in 2012.
Running the numbers a 44 year old worker making $70,000.00 annually (based upon the required 40 quarters or 10 years of reported earnings) he/she would receive a benefit of about $1,900.00 per month according to the SSA benefits calculator on the SSA’s website. This benefit could continue for 20 years until the recipient is 64 years old and then, at age 65, be rolled into the standard SS benefit, much more per month and decades longer than unemployment. There is a recent trend when state unemployment compensation runs out many more individuals are then taking a crack at SSDI benefits. Why not go for the much bigger prize of SSDI? Attorneys are waiting in the wings to assist you in your disability claim. In 2011 the cost of SSDI and SSI (Supplemental Security Income, i.e. welfare based on disability and financial need, not work quarters) payments was 132 billion dollars. Added to this is the 80 billion dollar cost of Medicare. The Newsmax article states that Medicare is awarded after 2 years, regardless of the age of the claimant. The rule is actually 2 years from when the SSA determines the “onset date” of total disability.
Therefore, Medicare could be awarded with the back benefits, and the 2 years is calculated from onset date, not the filing date. A lump sum payment for back benefits is awarded when the claimant receives a “fully favorable” decision from the ALJ after an initial denial of claim appealed to the Office of Disability Adjudication Review (ODAR). Using the $1,900.00 monthly benefit mentioned at the beginning of the foregoing paragraph times 24 months of back benefits (onset date going back 2 years which not unusual) the lump sum payment would be $45,600.00 plus Medicare! In fact SSI beneficiaries receive Medicare and, of course, Medicaid. SSI benefits automatically go together with Medicaid benefits. They’re both welfare based, not work based.
Another aspect of SSDI and SSI is the “ticket to work” program. According to Bloomberg Business Week less than 1% of the disabled ever return to work. And if an individual does choose to return to work the SSA has a program for these individuals known as “ticket to work”. Here we go again (just like my last post on this site)……….. cue up music from The Twilight Zone TV series while I explain “ticket to work” SSA’s program to purportedly facilitate disability beneficiaries returning to work part time. Normally SSA conducts a “continuing disability review” (CDR) every 3 years or so to determine if the beneficiary is still totally disabled or can attempt to return to the work force. However, if a beneficiary, who is presumed to be 100% disabled, applies to the “ticket to work” program regardless of whether he/she ever gains employment no more CDRs are conducted while in the program.
In other words now the beneficiary is magically no longer considered 100% disabled by the SSA and is available to work part time and keep up to a certain amount of earned income as well as the SSDI or SSI benefit payment! According to the SSA’s upside down logic the formerly 100% disabled beneficiary is now not 100% disabled and available to work (whether he/she is actually working is irrelevant) and will never again be subjected to a CDR while in the program even though he/she is, according to the SSA, no longer 100% disabled. Would it surprise anyone to know “ticket to work” is a miserable failure.
This is another very troubling example of a social program created by a federal law originally passed in July 1956 with the best of intentions that has morphed into the massive, tangled bureaucratic web and costly boondoggle we have today. What a surprising turn of events!

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