Robert D. Paulbeck, Attorney at Law
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SSDI is social insurance, not welfare

One of the things those who work with Social Security disability applicants have noticed in recent years is an increase in criticism of the Social Security Administration for the way it handles the disability application process. The criticisms are myriad, and at least partly reflect a growing concern over the financial future of the program and a genuine need to reform the program at some level.

Among the criticisms is that the agency is not doing enough to manage the number of Americans on the disability rolls. Unfortunately, the fuss over the issue has led to a degree of misinformation being spread to the public. To take one example: all too often, it is an unspoken assumption that Social Security disability income is a welfare program. By welfare, we mean here a government handout to qualifying individuals. This somehow, we suppose, makes it easier to criticize the program. What we would like to make clear here is that SSDI is not a government handout and that it should not be criticized as such. 

SSDI, while not a welfare program, can rightly be called a social insurance program. The difference is that recipients of SSDI have actually paid into the system and thereby qualified themselves to benefits for qualifying conditions. By contrast, Supplemental Security Income can be considered welfare since it does not require beneficiaries to have paid into any fund.

While this point may seem small, it should make an important difference in our overall view of the program. Instead of treating SSDI recipients as lazy Americans who want to use their disabilities as an excuse not to work—the tacit assumption of particularly conservative critics of the program—we should be looking at beneficiaries as people who are taking advantage of what they have a right to enjoy by virtue of paying into the fund and qualifying under disability requirements.

Those who feel they may qualify for SSDI should consult with an experienced attorney who understands the program and how to navigate the application process. Doing so ensures the best possible chance of a beneficial outcome.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, “The Myth of ‘Out of Control’ Disability Benefits,” August 25, 2014. 

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