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Social Security disability and work incentives reform

It is no secret that the Social Security disability program is in need of reform. As readers may know, the trust fund which feeds the program is set to dry up within a couple years and revenues are not able to keep up with current payouts. The result will be that sometime in 2016, payments to beneficiaries will be significantly reduced.

Along with that, there are the problems of disability fraud and the increasing number of Americans on the payroll. Though these issues are sometimes blown out of proportion, it is true that they need to be appropriately addressed. Another problem that needs to be taken into account is the fact that beneficiaries are highly unlikely to make attempts to go back to work after being admitted to the disability roll.

It isn't that the Social Security disability program doesn't offer beneficiaries the possibility of getting back to work. In fact, the program does offer beneficiaries continued monthly disability payments and Medicare coverage during a trial work period. Beneficiaries who take part in the program are able to test out their ability to go back to work without risking these benefits. The trouble is that as soon as beneficiaries earn above a certain amount, they are no longer eligible for benefits. For those who are concerned about their ability to continue working long-term, it is still a gamble.

Some have recommended that the Social Security Administration reform the program so that benefits would be awarded at least partially based on the beneficiary’s ability to work. The degree to which benefits would be tied to the ability to work could be dependent on certain factors, but the basic idea would be to give beneficiaries a positive incentive to begin working again to the extent they are able.

It isn’t clear how such an idea would work out in practice, but it is definitely important that various solutions be considered in order to ensure the integrity of the Social Security disability program. Current beneficiaries who are interested in taking advantage of work incentives are able to obtain more information from their local Social Security office or can work with an experienced attorney for guidance and advocacy.

Source: Town Hall, “SSDI Reform: A New Benefit Structure to Encourage Work by Individuals with Disabilities,” Jagadeesh Gokhale, September 8, 2014. 

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