The future of Social Security disability benefits has made headlines recently, many exclaiming that the Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money within a decade. According to experts, the sluggish economy is playing a greater role in draining the trust fund than previously suspected.

One expert has said that, contrary to when it first began, Social Security disability benefits are often granted now to people with mental conditions such as depression and schizophrenia. When it first began, disability benefits were given to those with severe, more obvious conditions and ailments such as cancer, strokes and heart attacks.

According to a new report from the Obama administration and others, many people are pursuing Social Security disability benefits once their unemployment benefits run out. Since the recession began in 2007, approximately 3.4 million Americans have begun receiving disability benefits. For the average beneficiary, the Social Security Disability Insurance program will provide approximately $1,000 per month, along with access to Medicare and Medicaid.

Some are blaming the scope and duration of the current economic situation. The unemployed are still required to put food on the table, and once unemployment runs out they are more inclined to apply for disability benefits. One expert said that those whose initial application is rejected are more likely than ever to appeal. Many people receive benefits only after appealing at least once.

While there are some calls for SSDI reform, the main focus for a Congress eager to slash federal spending is to reform all of Social Security. But with SSDI making up 18 percent of Social Security spending, the program could soon feel the wrath of budget cutters.

Source: PRI Public Radio International, “As unemployment benefits claims decline, disability claims rise,” Dec. 29, 2011