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Why the SSDI program is important

There was much talk in the past election year, as there usually is, about deficits, debt, government spending and the amounts used for various benefits programs overseen by federal departments. One program that inevitably comes up when discussing cuts is social security. As many New Jersey residents may be aware, the Social Security Administration is responsible for many different programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance. As we have mentioned previously, this program is meant to help those who have been long-term or permanently disabled and are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. But how important is this program in practice?

One way to measure this is to look at whether SSDI is achieving its objective of allowing people who can't work to make ends meet. We might be able to get an idea of whether this is occurring by checking to see whether the program is keeping people out of poverty who would otherwise be below that line if the program didn't exist. Statistics compiled by SSA as of 2013 break disabled beneficiaries into two groups of age 40 or older and below the age of 40. According to these numbers, 19 percent of SSDI recipients were in poverty when including the benefit amounts they received. However, when those benefits were not counted, 50 percent were below the poverty line. Likewise, for beneficiaries under 40, 24 percent were poor when counting benefits; a number which increases to 52 percent with benefits subtracted.

Now, poverty level is very poor, and many people just above that level still struggle financially. According to the SSA, for individuals 40 and older, 37 percent were under 150 percent of the poverty level with benefits, compared to 59 percent without those payments. For those under 40, the level goes from 46 percent with benefits to 62 percent without them.

As can be seen, SSDI makes a very large difference to many of those who receive it in New Jersey and across the country. For a large number of families getting those payments is the difference between living a life of poverty and deprivation and being able to at least make ends meet. Without SSDI, it is likely that those individuals and families would become a burden on other social safety net systems, or end up creating social problems such as crime.

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