Social Security Disability Insurance Becomes Subject of Reform

Small changes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are expected, but are just not going to be enough, according to U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). In a letter they wrote last week, the alterations in the budget agreement constructed last year will only be like “band-aids” for the program’s fiscal problems. The senators argue that fundamental changes need to be made in order to provide a system that will help those in need.

Those in agreement with Senators Lankford and Manchin believe some of the issues with SSDI are fraud, overpayment, the weaknesses of the application process, and the relationship between SSDI benefits and other federal programs in place. Supporters of this view believe the remedies for these issues include the reorganization of the determination process to be more efficient and accurate, and recipients of SSDI could be given more support to find other sources of income and employment. Furthering this view, the Social Security Trustees stated that “reallocation of resources in the absence of substantive reforms might, on the other hand, serve to delay DI (Disability Insurance) reforms and much needed corrections for OASDI (Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance) as a whole.”

Others point to how the U.S. government has historically “borrowed” money from Social Security without paying it back. It is reported that former President George W. Bush withdrew approximately $708 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund while he was in office and it has not yet been replenished. Additionally, the trust fund is managed by the Department of the Treasury by investing in special issue government bonds. Some question if the government can make good on these bonds, which if cashed in, may lead to social security solvency.

Additional ideas on how to improve solvency with the Social Security Trust Fund include increasing social security taxes (from the current 6.2%), lifting the payroll cap (so that social security taxes apply to total income instead of the current $118,500.00), raising the retirement age (67 for people born after 1959), and a means-test phasing out retirees depending on their income.

The issue of probable insolvency is of concern to residents of New York in addition to the already daunting application process. Approximately fifty-seven percent of New York disability claims are denied by the Social Security Administration. Once there is a denial, an applicant in New York moves on to the hearing stage, directly bypassing a reconsideration request. In most states a reconsideration request is the first step after the initial denial. A “reconsideration” is a request for a claims examiner at Disability Determination Services to review the denial. This step has been eliminated in the state of New York. Having the hearing, though, typically takes between 274 to 612 days. The timeframe depends on the applicant’s filing location. For example, in Brooklyn offices, the average is 274 days, whereas, in the Bronx office, the average is 532 days. In Jericho it is 284 days and in Queens it can be 370 days.

Considering the fiscal constraints facing the program, along with the length of the application process, it has never been more important to have an attorney assist you with disability benefits applications from the time of filing. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles social security and disability claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. For more information please call (866)-557-7500 or click here to speak with our office.

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