Despite President Trump’s campaign promise to leave Social Security alone, his budget director, Michael Mulvaney recently called the Social Security disability a “very wasteful program” that has grown too quickly under President Obama and needs to be fixed. The Washington Post gave Mulvaney’s claims “Three Pinocchios”, meaning that those claims are “mostly false”. Here’s why.
The growth in Social Security disability, the Washington Post noted, started in 1996 before Obama’s term as President. It can be explained by the baby boomer generation entering their 50’s (which are peak years for disability) and more women joining the workforce. As the baby boomers retire the costs of the disability program have, according to Social Security’s chief actuary, started to stabilize and will continue to do so in the future. Indeed over the past two years the number of Social Security disability beneficiaries have fallen by 150,000, and the “share of Americans receiving these benefits is expected to remain flat over the next 20 years”, according to the Center on Budget Policy Priorities.
Any “waste” in the Social Security disability program is small, less than 1% of the disability payments result in overpayments, according to the Washington Post. The standards used to determine disability are stringent: a medically documented condition or conditions which last at least 12 months and prevent the claimant from doing not only his/her own job but any other work which exists in significant numbers in our national economy. The Center on Budget Policy Priorities noted that these standards “are among the toughest among developed countries”, with fewer than 4 in 10 beneficiaries ultimately receiving benefits after a process that can take over two and a half years.
Social Security disability is a vital program of social insurance which protects families whose breadwinners can’t work. It’s a promise from each of us as Americans that we will have your back if you can’t work. Attempts to shred this vital safety net by false claims from highly placed governmental officials should be rejected.