Disability Benefits Growth Also Due To Congress

Today we continue our discussion of the underlying reasons for the recent rapid growth in Social Security beneficiaries. Critics often suggest the growth is due to fraud and abuse in the system. These problems certainly do exist, and the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) needs to improve its effort to eliminate them, but they have never been the primary culprits.

On a NY Times blog discussing the problems facing disability benefits reform, a former claims examiner wrote, “Fraud, from my perspective, seems to be a politically convenient target. However, it occurs in a very, very small percentage of cases.” Echoing these sentiments, a disability benefits administrative law judge remarked, “As a judge who has handled Social Security disability cases for 16 years, I do not believe that there is as much fraud as the press and the public believe…”

Where is the growth in beneficiaries coming from then? On Wednesday we discussed the demographic and economic reasons behind the growth. Today we look to another reason – Congress.

During the Reagan and the first Bush administration, Congress and the SSA made changes to how a person qualifies for disability benefits. They made changes to recognize the disabling nature of mental disorders, and as a result benefits for mental disorders have grown rapidly since the 1980s. If you or a loved one suffers from a mental disorder, details on qualifying for disability benefits are available from a Tulsa SSI lawyer.

The changes from Congress and the SSA were a result of advancements in medical diagnoses and treatment. Consider the case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). ADHD diagnoses are much more common today in the past. As recent as 40-50 years ago, for many purposes, ADHD did not “exist.” There were no treatments for it, and the public did not recognize it as a disorder. Today, that is not the case, and anyone who suffers from ADHD or who has worked with someone with ADHD is well aware that the disorder is very real and makes it very difficult for those afflicted with it to concentrate and work.

Congress has made it easier for certain conditions to receive disability benefits in recent years, but this “ease” does not mean that unqualified people are suddenly able to receive disability benefits. Rather, it has become easier for people with real disabilities to receive financial support for the first time ever thanks to improvements in the medical field in diagnosing and understanding conditions.

Have you benefited from any recent changes in laws or regulations affecting disability benefits?


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