Despite the occasional stories of Social Security benefits fraud in the news, Social Security is already fairly well run (see Wednesday’s post) and is designed to avoid fraudulent payouts by a simple measure – it is not easy to receive disability benefits. The impression many get from the cases of fraud in the news is that people easily apply for and start receiving benefits and then maintain their scheme over many years. There is no doubt that these cases do occasionally happen, and Social Security must aggressively prosecute them, but the best way to view the system in the big picture is to consider how a typical applicant deals with it.
The struggle to obtain disability benefits
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked long enough to pay into the system (SSDI benefits are a form of insurance); as such, disabled workers receiving SSDI have actually earned their disability benefits. More details on the work requirements to be eligible for SSDI benefits are available from a Tulsa Oklahoma Social Security Disability attorney.
You must also be disabled for at least a year, meaning that you are unable to work in any position whatsoever. Medical professionals have to review your condition and certify your status to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), which then has its own team of doctors, application examiners, vocational experts and administrative law judges who consider your case.
The next obstacle is the timeline. Most successful applicants are in the system from one to two years. The Social Security Administration rejects nearly two-thirds of applicants at the initial stage. Keep in mind that, while they wait, applicants typically are unable to work and have few options to obtain income.
Highlighting the struggles of SSDI applicants is the fact that several thousand die every year while awaiting a decision on their application. The SSA code for these applicants is “DXDI,” and it has used this designation over 15,000 times since 2005, but these stories make the headlines less often the fraud cases.
Finally, consider the monthly amount of SSDI benefits. It varies from person to person, but it has been around $1,000 a month, or an annual income of roughly $12,000. This is just about at the federal poverty line for a household of one.
Adding these considerations up gives us a better idea of what a typical disability benefits applicant faces – an inability to work, a several-year wait with no money coming in, possible death or worsening of a medical condition, and a meager amount of monthly income if the SSA does eventually approve the application. Far from gaming the system, the typical disability applicant is just trying to stay afloat.
Are you an SSDI beneficiary? How did you manage while you were waiting on your benefits application?