By Nancy Shor and T.J. Sutcliffe. Ms. Shor is the Senior Policy Advisor for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) and Ms. Sutcliffe is the Director of Income and Housing Policy at The Arc.
Unless Congress acts, at the end of 2016 nearly 11 million Americans who rely on Social Security disability benefits will face a devastating 19 percent benefit cut. In the past, Congress has never failed to come together on a bipartisan basis to prevent this kind of abrupt, across-the-board cut in one of our nation’s most beloved social insurance systems. But sadly, over the last year political brinksmanship has delayed necessary action and left beneficiaries and their families living in a state of ongoing alarm over the future of their economic security.
Standing strong at 80 years and counting, our nation’s Social Security system insures nearly all American workers and their families for retirement, death, and qualifying disabilities. Given the reality of today’s economy, most workers have few if any savings to fall back on in the event of a life-changing disability. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits average only around $40 per day for disabled worker beneficiaries, but make up the majority of personal income for most. It’s no surprise that without SSDI, most beneficiaries and their families would face financial dire straits and often unthinkable choices.
The current need to replenish Social Security’s Disability Insurance (DI) fund to account for long-term trends, such as an older workforce now in its disability-prone years, has been expected for several decades. Without congressional action, at the end of 2016 the DI fund’s reserves will be depleted, leaving only incoming payroll contributions to pay for benefits. As a result, unless Congress acts, SSDI beneficiaries will face a 19 percent benefit cut at the end of 2016.