By Jeff Ciegel, Attorney
As disability lawyers in St. Louis, MO we are very aware that there has been a recent push lately from the media and certain members of Congress to label the disability system in this country as wasteful and full of fraudsters. The people making these outrageous claims ignore the facts actually published by the Social Security Administration and focus on a few bad apples that have been caught cheating the system. While it’s true that there are people who do try and scam the system, this is going to be true in every aspect of life. The evening news is full of stories of local frauds, tax cheats, and larger financial crimes and Ponzi schemes. However, this does not mean the disability system is broken and needs to be scrapped. Many people that I’ve spoken with about the issue seem to think disability is full of fakers and it’s easy to be approved. They do not seem to realize that the overall approval rating for disability cases nationwide has drastically declined in the 10 years. In 2010, SSA’s own numbers documented a 34.8% approval rating for all disabled beneficiaries.
People also do not seem to realize that Social Security Disability is not an entitlement program. These are essentially insurance benefits that workers have paid into over the years enough so to gain coverage. Social Security describes this as a social insurance program, under which workers earn coverage for benefits by working and paying Social Security taxes on their earnings. In addition, people who are found disabled are not out living the high life so to speak. Disability benefits are modest at best. At the beginning of 2014, Social Security paid an average monthly disability benefit of $1,146. SSA states that this is barely enough to keep a beneficiary above the 2013 poverty level ($11,490 annually). Furthermore, SSA admits that the overall increase in the number of people receiving benefits is primarily due to the aging baby boomer population and more women joining the workforce and earning coverage that in the past. Next time you hear someone complaining about the disability system don’t be so quick to agree with them. The majority of people receiving disability benefits need those benefits to survive. You never know, tomorrow you could be injured and need the same help.