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On political discussion shows, one topic surfacing on occasion is Social Security Disability (SSD) fraud. Commentators claim too many individuals use it for a sole source of income and strain the government, and in response, the whole program needs to be scrapped entirely.

While assumptions might cloud logic here, others quote the growing number of Americans enrolled, which increased steadily since the early 1990s. Yet, multiple factors contribute to this trend, with fraud only having an insignificant impact. Consider these points:

1. Low Approval, Strict Standards

SSD5What many fail to realize is, the U.S. SSD system is one of the strictest in the western world. Fewer than four out of 10 applicants ever get approved, even through multiple appeals, and for those that manage to get benefits, individuals suffer from debilitating conditions that make working nearly impossible. The average recipient lives just five years after receiving benefits.

2. More Qualifying Americans

Data has shown that the increasing number of SSD recipients come from multiple factors that reflect a changing American society.

  1. Since the 1970s, more women have entered the workforce, hence qualifying them for SSD benefits.
  2. Population growth over the past four decades.
  3. Baby Boomers are growing older.

Yet, while times of economic depression correlate with higher application rates, this trend doesn’t signify more approvals. In fact, studies have indicated that, during these periods, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is less likely to approve a claim.

3. Small Benefits

In concept, SSD keeps individuals unable to work out of poverty. Those approved receive a small amount each month – about $1,100, which is just above the federal poverty line.

While some claimants may continue to work, only a small amount – just under 17 percent – do, as their conditions prevent them from finding and sustaining employment.

Within the SSA, too, money’s tight, and this program amounts to just 1.4 percent of all benefits paid per year. Along with this fact, research has shown that the SSA is more likely to underpay claimants than to overcompensate them.

Yet, even with these factors, SSD becomes extremely necessary in the present. Should a worker become ill or injured on the job, companies’ long-term disability insurance is rarely comprehensive and sufficient, and few businesses take out such policies.

4. Extremely Low Fraud Rate

In spite of what the pundits may tell you, SSD fraud has accounted for less than one percent of claims. SSD fraud is a serious charge accompanied by heavy penalties:

  • Being charged with a felony
  • Fines up to $250,000
  • Five years in jail
  • Various civil penalties
Sources:
“Nine Facts That Prove Disability Insurance Isn’t A Giant Boondoggle”
“Social Security disability fraud is rare”
“Growth in New Disabled-Worker Entitlements, 1970–2008”
All In Finishes Strong With Focus On Media Lies About Social Security Disability Income”