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Disability benefits possibly on chopping block

Newark residents may have heard that the Trump administration, in its budget proposal, intends to cut Social Security disability payments to workers by $72 billion over the next decade. The cuts are intended to lower the federal deficit without reducing Social Security retirement benefits.

The SSD benefits program received attention during the recession as the amount of benefits and recipients dramatically grew. Spending on SSD benefits rose by 160 percent from $54.9 billion in 2000 to $142.7 billion in 2016.

Benefits were paid to 10.6 million beneficiaries in 2016 compared to 8.9 million in 2007 and 6.7 million in 2000. The number of benefits checks distributed increased 19 percent from 10 years ago and 58 percent compared to 2000.

Less stringent eligibility rules and the recession were considered responsible for the increase along with the aging of baby boomer beneficiaries. Opponents of this program also claim that too many beneficiaries took advantage of a program that was originally intended to assist truly disabled workers.

Addressing concerns over a depleting insurance fund, eligibility requirements were tightened in the last administration to keep disabled workers in the labor force. These efforts and an improving economy led to a decline in beneficiaries from the peak of 10.99 million in 2013. Spending also dropped from a record $143.3 billion in 2015 to $142.7 billion in 2016.

In 2016, the average monthly benefit as $1,171. The average benefit for men was $1,293 while women received $1.043. The average yearly payment was $14,093. Dependent children comprised 1.67 million of the 10.61 million beneficiaries.

The Trump administration will reportedly have even more strict eligibility review and lower retroactive benefits. These restrictions are intended to cut $7.2 in benefit each year from 2018 through 2017 for a total of $72 billion. This amounts to approximately 5 percent of SSD benefits paid in 2016.

Beneficiaries and applicants may face additional hurdles from the Social Security Administration with obtaining and keeping SSD if requirements become more stringent. An attorney can help with applying for and keeping benefits and appealing denials.

Source: MarketWatch, "Not all Social Security is immune from Trump budget cuts," Jeffry Bartash, May 24, 2017

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