Don’t believe the Social Security Disability hype

04102-box2We hear stories, read articles, read social media content, and hear ‘horror’ stories about how out of control Social Security Disability benefits program is, in terms of awarding benefits.  It’s just wrong.  Plain wrong.

First, and foremost, what many people fail to understand, is the fact Social Security Disability (SSD) is partially funded by your money!  Yes, you pay for social security disability benefits out of your pay checks through a payroll deduction.   Just like unemployment compensation.  Why?  Because it is there in case you need it.   A person is not eligible for SSD benefits unless they have paid in enough quarters.  That is fact!

US News and World Report published a good article on the hype surrounding this ‘out of control’ SSD benefit program.   The article points out, that although benefit growth has risen modestly, that is also because the sheer number of workers paying into the system has risen.

True, the disability insurance rolls have grown in recent decades, but most of that reflects well-understood demographic factors that have increased the number of insured workers, especially in the crucial 50 to 64 age group where risk of disability peaks. These factors include: overall population growth; the aging of baby boomers; the rise in the share of women in the labor force; and the rise in Social Security’s full retirement age from 65 to 66.

Properly measured, the share of insured workers receiving disability insurance benefits has risen much more modestly than the raw number of beneficiaries (see chart below).

Contrary to popular belief, benefits under SSD are not easy to get.  The process is long and rigorous.  The definition of ‘disability’ under the SSD program is not simple to meet and requires significant medical evidence and documentation.

Disability insurance benefits also  remain hard to get, even in recessions, including the recent Great Recession. While claims rose sharply, the number of approved claims rose much less. In other words, standards for approving benefits remained strict and a much higher share of applications were rejected.”

Sure, we all know ‘someone’ who is receiving disability benefits that ‘shouldn’t be’.  First, we really do not know that person’s medical conditions, extent of treatment, and criteria under which benefits were awarded.  We think we do.  But, reality is, we don’t.  Some do slip through the cracks.  That is likely true.  Any benefits program is like that, not just SSD.  Take a look at all the corporate tax deductions, loop holes, tax incentives and breaks, and LERTA type tax relief that multi-billion dollar companies receive.  No program is perfect, not will we ever see one.

For the areas we serve, mainly Adams County, Cumberland County, Dauphin County, Franklin County, Perry County, and York County in South Central Pennsylvania, those social security disability appeals are heard and decided in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.   Think the majority of cases in Harrisburg are approved?  Think again.  Here are the numbers.   In Harrisburg, only 41% of cases are approved, in Pennsylvania only 40% are approved, and those numbers are compared to a National average of 44% approved.  So the notion that social security disability benefits are easy to get, that is just plain wrong.   Now, those numbers only count for those applicants that actually appeal.  Many complete the application process and are denied benefits.  They never appeal.  Those denial are not factored into the above referenced numbers.

Before you believe the rhetoric, check out some facts first.

If you can’t work any longer because of a disability, you have applied for social security disability and have been denied, and live in South Central Pennsylvania, contact  Mooney & Associates right away.  We offer you a FREE consultations and will provide you an honest assessment of your social security disability case.  Call 717-632-4656 or email us at

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.