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Administrative cuts impede Social Security disability programs

Disabled workers who are receiving Social Security disability benefits while they are unable to perform their job duties know that their monthly benefits are a lifeline, rather than a substitute for work. According to the Social Security Administration, average monthly payments range from $800 to $1,400.

Given the tight monthly budget facing many SSDI beneficiaries, proposals like the chained consumer price index are especially troublesome. Whereas cost-of-living adjustments might ordinarily translate into higher disability benefits of time, the chained CPI approach provides a more conservative increase. Chained CPI assumes that consumers can find cheaper substitutes for products as prices rise over time. As a result, cost-of-living increases are lower under a chained CPI formula.

Fortunately, many Social Security benefits continue to be based on cost-of-living increases. Yet other areas of the administration may not be receiving adequate increases in funding.

According to a recent article, the SSA has had to reduce its staff to 62,000, down from 70,000 in the 1990s. Field offices have also been consolidated from 92 to 46. At the same time, the number of SSDI applicants and approved beneficiaries has steadily grown. Small wonder, then, that SSA officials lack the funds and manpower needed to police against some fraudulent schemes.

Unfortunately, it’s the fraudulent recipients of SSDI payments who have been making newspaper headlines of late. In reaction, some lawmakers have called for stricter oversight and scrutiny of the SSDI approval process. That, in turn, could make filing a successful initial application even harder for deserving, disabled workers. Given this political climate, a worker who is thinking about applying for SSDI payments might be wise to consult with a disability benefits attorney. An attorney can help an applicant prepare a strong claim.

Source: Daily Kos, “Social Security already hit by the austerity squeeze,” Joan McCarter, March 21, 2014

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