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House rule threatens funding for Social Security disability

When someone experiences an inability to work due to an unexpected disability--whether long- or short-term--the financial impacts can be catastrophic. Many people do not have sufficient savings to carry them through a period of unemployment. The Social Security Disability program has aimed to protect and aid people in this situation by providing income to those who meet the disability and work requirements. However, because of funding concerns and general budgetary strain, the SSD system often comes under attack, as a recent move by the House illustrates.

A new House rule reveals that the debate over Social Security, including Social Security disability, is likely to take center stage in the upcoming year, especially as the country moves into the next Presidential election. The issue seems to be how to continue to fund the Social Security disability system since the growth of the system has continued to exceed revenues. At the current rate, it is estimated that the SSD trust fund will be depleted by the end of December, which would result in a significant decrease of benefits for SSD recipients. Historically, the revenues from the Social Security retirement system have been tapped to provide the needed funds for SSD, but the new House rule will prevent this practice from occurring in the future as it created a point of order against any bill that does not increase the "actuarial balance" of both the SSD and Social Security retirement funds combined. The Republicans responsible for this new rule argue that they hope this rule spurs on real conversation and productive change regarding the continued viability of the Social Security systems.

For millions of people across the country, the continued viability of the Social Security disability is of paramount concern. Without the income provided by SSD benefits, many disabled individuals and their family members would be forced into poverty because of an inability to earn sufficient income. In order to qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits, a person does not have to be elderly. Instead, an applicant for benefits must prove that he or she has a qualifying injury or illness and that he or she has a sufficient work history.

Although SSD requires a disability that lasts, or is expected to last, for one year or longer, this does not mean that an applicant has to wait for an entire year to pass before applying for benefits. The application process, and the appeals process--if necessary, can often take quite a long time, so it is generally a good idea to apply for benefits as soon as someone suffers a disability that may qualify.

Source: Politico, "Republicans target Social Security disability," David Rogers, Jan. 20, 2015

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