Last Friday, Newsday published an edited version of my Letter to the Editor criticizing their article about the reasons for the increase in Social Security disability claims. The Newsday article argued that one of the reasons Social Security disability claims were up was due to lax disability standards.
A few important nuggets of truth remained in my letter which will hopefully resonate with most New Yorkers. According to Social Security stastistics, the grim fact is that 1 in 5 male and 1 in 7 female disability recipients die within 5 years of being granted benefits. So if the average age that someone receives disability payments is 55, the fact is that many will never collect a dime of regular Social Security retirement benefits.
This saves Social Security a ton of cash! This “found money” in their “retirement trust fund” can always be used to supplement the “disability trust fund”. The drum banging about the “death of the “disability trust fund in 2016” is nothing more than the inarticulate playing of a bunch of right wing, anti-entitlement percussionists.
As the residents of Queens know so well, getting Social Security disability benefits in New York is no easy task. Despite the large majority of Social Security judges being of the highest integrity, the simple fact is that the standards to get disability have never been higher than they have in the past year. Nationwide, approvals at the administrative judge level have dropped by nearly 10% in the last year. Judges are calling more medical and vocational experts to testify than ever before. Claimants have no choice but to hire Social Security disability attorneys to cross-examine these professional experts called by the judges. Many claimants are poor and extremely sick.
Although there are certainly areas for improvement in the disability system (such as worker re-training), lets not throw the most vulnerable to the curb so fast. After all, government stats show that many will be dead soon enough.