Suggestions to overhaul SSDI

America's Social Security system has come under fire recently for being too lenient and not cost-effective. The program was originally started by the federal government 1956 to help older workers with significant impairments that made them unable to work. It was expanded to support those with serious disabilities. Since then, Social Security disability benefits have degraded into a crutch for those with mild disabilities who do not desire to work and, recently, a kind of unemployment insurance not only for residents of Pittsburgh, but throughout the nation.

Mathematica, a policy research company, recently released a report critiquing the current Social Security disability system along with suggestions for improvement. Their Center for Studying Disability Policy stated that the current disability system has two major structural flaws: It encourages life-long impairment and is inconsistent across the country.

A person who is disabled and is entitled to receive aid is defined as being unable to work because of medically concrete impairments. Medical and technological advancements have made it so that many more people can work now with disabilities than ever before. However, nearly 13 million working-age Americans are receiving disability benefits. Instead of striving to be self-sufficient, they are encouraged to remain dependent on the system and in poverty. Over half of those receiving disability are impoverished.

Mathematica suggests a complete system overhaul, starting with a national disability demonstration commission created by Congress. The commission could test ideas and make real changes, not minor differences. Among those changes suggested by the report is a local disability support administrator who can act as a central point of intake and coordination. They also suggest a complete financial overhaul to stop the hemorrhaging that is currently happening. Hopefully, if someone listens to these researchers, real change can be made to the Social Security disability system.

Source: The Hill, "A disability policy for the 21st century," David Stapleton and David Mann, Jan. 19, 2012

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