Buffalo, NY — Recent sensationalized reports inferring the Social Security Disability *(SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs are being abused are blatantly incorrect, according to Jeffrey Freedman, managing partner, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys at Law, PLLC, and member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR).
“These reports are based on anecdotes, half-truths and misrepresentations of the facts,” Freedman said. “My firm has helped more than 15,000 claimants obtain benefits over the past 30 years. Clients who are truly disabled and can no longer perform any work are very deserving of their benefits.”
The number of workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has increased by about 22 percent since 2007, according to Social Security data. This trend, however, was predicted as early as 1994 and is due to two demographic changes in the population. First, baby boomers are aging into their most disability-prone years; and second, women who joined the workforce in the 1970s and `80s have established their own earnings records and are eligible for SSD benefits for the first time in the history of Social Security.
“We have clients who have done physical labor for 25 to 35 years, who have sustained injuries over those years and can simply no longer do their jobs, nor are they qualified for other work,” Freedman said. “For the average income-earner, SSD benefits are about $1,100 per month and it is very difficult to be approved.”
Last year, for example, Social Security reported 3.1 million initial applications were filed and only 33 percent of those were approved. Of the 2 million claimants whose initial applications were denied and who went on to pursue a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), 668,000 reached the hearing level; and at the hearing level, only 52 percent of applicants were awarded benefits. In the Buffalo and Rochester area, it typically takes more than 400 days from the time a claimant files an appeal after being denied at the initial application stage for that person to receive benefits.
“The truth is, the application process is complex — requiring specific and ongoing medical documentation of the case and incorporating deadlines for the submission of evidence — so it is very difficult for an individual who is already dealing with the stress of an illness and financial problems to get through the processing of their claim,” Freedman said.
It is also incorrect to say Social Security benefits are contributing to the growth of the deficit. The program is financed by payroll taxes (FICA), and benefits come out of the taxes raised. Older workers must have paid into the system for five out of the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled to be eligible. The time period varies for younger workers, depending on age.
“My clients face many challenges in obtaining benefits from a program that they’ve paid into for their entire working lives — benefits that are barely enough to keep them going,” Freedman said.