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Presidential candidates may begin unveiling reforms for SSDI

Suffering an unexpected disability can wreak havoc on a person's life and financial stability. Even those who have solid savings often do not have sufficient funds to sustain themselves without work for more than a few months. Social Security disability is a safety net that protects many people from falling into severe poverty while they are unable to work due to a disability. Unfortunately, the politics surrounding Social Security disability and its future are quite contentious.

The fate of the Social Security system is likely to become a central issue in the next presidential race, in part because current projections indicate that the disability fund will begin to run out of money at the end of next year. Republicans have used this fact to argue that the future of program is very uncertain and to strongly advocate for extensive and systemic long-term changes. The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, will soon reveal his plan to reform Social Security, a move which could potentially prompt other Republican presidential candidates to do the same.

Many people know that Social Security disability benefits exist without understanding how the program works and how it is funded. The Social Security disability program is part of the same system as Social Security retirement. If a person who has suffered a disability receives disability benefits at some point in his or her life, it is not a "hand-out"; the majority of workers pay into the system, like paying a premium for an insurance policy, during their working years so that benefits are available to them when they need them in the future.

Despite the fact that workers pay into the system to fund the disability program, there is more demand for benefits than available funds. This is the reason that the disability fund is being depleted. Not everyone who applies for benefits will receive them, however. There is a detailed application process that requires both proof that an applicant has a sufficient work history to be eligible for benefits and that an applicant has suffered a qualifying disability.

Source: National Journal, "Social Security Reform a Potential Minefield for 2016 GPO Contenders," Dylan Scott, April 9, 2015

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