By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama requested a report from the Congressional Budget Office(CBO) about the growth of the number of Americans receiving disability benefits. The CBO delivered that document to Sen. Sessions today. Sen. Sessions has released the report to the public and has released a written statement on the subject.
Sen. Sessions said, “Today’s report from the Congressional Budget Office reveals a dramatic increase in applications and awards for Social Security disability, placing the disability trust fund on a fast-track to insolvency in just four years. Amazingly, while fewer Americans are working than at the end of 2008, 3.6 million Americans have been awarded SSDI benefits over the same period. The growing number of people on disability and other federal benefits, combined with weak economic growth, raises serious concerns about the sustainability of the American economy.”
Sen. Sessions continued, “It is clear there is a great need to distinguish between proper and improper disability claims, and to better incentivize and find acceptable work for those who are able. Today only 1 percent of Social Security disability recipients ever return to work. The administration of this program must be improved to avoid sinking our country deeper into debt, to ensure the program remains viable for those with disabilities, and to protect Social Security itself.”
Sen. Sessions said that the dramatic rise in the number of Americans getting disability benefits also jeopardizes the long term solvency of Medicare because the disabled automatically become entitled to Medicare benefits for the rest of their lives just two years after being awarded disability benefits.
The number of Americans receiving federal disability benefits has risen to 8.7 million. In 2011 disability benefits amounted to almost 18% of Social Security. Disability benefits cost $128 billion in 2011. The government also spent $80 billion providing Medicare benefits to the disabled.
Sen. Sessions written statement said that the, “CBO finds that in addition to changing labor force dynamics and an aging population, the 1984 federal expansion in eligibility criteria has brought the SSDI program to the brink of insolvency. Since 2009, the SSDI program has been paying out more in annual benefits than it receives in taxes and interest on the trust fund’s assets. Consequently, the trust fund is shrinking and will be depleted by 2016—just four years from now.”
In July last year a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that known overpayments reached $1.4 billion in 2010. The GAO concluded that 75% of known overpayments were made to beneficiaries who had returned to work and weren’t eligible to continue receiving benefits. SSDI beneficiaries are supposed to notify the Social Security Administration when they return to work, but the GAO concluded that this rarely ever happens. Receiving disability benefits that you are not entitled to is fraud.
The Social Security Administration commissioned an independent review of the federal disability system in December. The study is focused on why people that truly deserve disability benefits are denied by the program while people who do not deserve benefits seem to get them. The first draft of the report is expected in August.
Sen. Jeff Sessions is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee