It's election season, and that means lots of talk about the future of Social Security. While most of the discussion centers around Social Security retirements benefits and Medicare, what about disability benefits?
In my view, the recent attacks on Social Security disability benefits have been more subtle but still very prevalent and scary. I have seen many articles in the national news which have addressed disability benefits and the alleged "growing" number of cases being paid. Make no mistake about it, many of these articles are employing "scare tactics," causing individuals who are not knowledgeable about this area to think that Judges are awarding benefits with ease and that the system is being abused by individuals making frivolous claims. This is simply not the case.
While it's true that there are overall more claims being filed, this is in large part attributable to the growing number of baby boomers reaching close to retirement age. Unfortunately for Claimants, however, data has shown that fewer and fewer judges are actually issuing favorable decisions, and that the Appeals Council is remanding fewer cases than it did in the past.
As Claimant's advocates, it is not just our job to represent our clients before these judges, but to speak out when a program that has been so beneficial to many is under political attack.
As long as I've been doing my job, I have never had a client come to me who I thought was "faking it" or trying to abuse the system. Sure, I may advise some clients or potential clients that, after careful review, they likely do not have a winnable claim, but even these clients have genuine disabilities that affect their ability to work - they just may not meet the strict disability requirements that Social Security has. Moreover, many of my clients do not want to be applying for disability benefits. It is something they decide to do usually after much anguish and careful thought.
Social Security is a great program that is designed to protect those who are unable to work. Many have paid money into the system to insure this safety net for them and their families. It's too important of a system to allow baseless attacks to be made in the media and political arena.