The number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits has exploded in the recent years. Because of this and a lack of funding, the Social Security Administration has had a difficult time keeping up with annual reviews that ensure that everyone in Georgia and the rest of the country who is receiving benefits is eligible and should continue receiving benefits. Now, however, thanks to the recent deficit-reduction deal, the SSA could find itself with the resources needed to revive the review process.
The number of annual “continuing disability reviews” performed by the SSA dropped to 200,000 in 2007 from 850,000 in 2002. While the agency reports a minimal increase in reviews since then, the numbers are still low. The SSA is one of the few areas to receive an exemption under the federal deficit-reduction bill. What this means, is that spending caps would not affect the amount of money the SSA could receive to conduct reviews and redeterminations in the near future.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the SSA could spend $623 million more than the designated 2012 spending caps. Under the bill, spending would be steadily raised to $1.3 billion more than caps in 2017.
This increased spending allowance comes at a time when the number of disability insurance recipients is growing at a rapid pace. Currently, the Social Security Disability Insurance program helps support 10.4 million people. That is 3.5 million more beneficiaries than there were 10 years ago. In connection with growing numbers, the program is also experiencing growing costs. Last year, the SSA paid $124 billion in benefits to disability recipients. Analysts have predicted that program’s funds will be depleted by 2018 unless fundamental changes are implemented.
One way the SSA works to combat the growing costs is through continuing disability reviews. Such reviews inspect certain recipients’ medical records, and some are required to be examined by a doctor. These reviews determine if a person should or should not continue receiving disability benefits. The SSA estimates that the reviews result in approximately 12 percent of beneficiaries losing their payments. Hopefully the increased funding will help the SSA ensure that those who cannot work due to a disability get the benefits they need.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Deal Clears Path to More Disability Reviews,” Damian Paletta, Aug. 3, 2011