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Saving the disability program

Many people living in Long Island and beyond rely on Social Security disability benefits. In fact, about 11 million Americans rely on Social Security disability benefits after an unexpected illness or injury prevents them from working. Although Congress is focusing their attention on retirement benefits, the numbers suggest they ought to be looking much more closely at disability benefits.

At the rate at which disability benefits are currently paid out, the program is expected to run out of money in just four years. Although payroll tax-revenue will help fund most of the program, benefits would likely be cut 21 percent.

So what are members of Congress doing about it? It appears very little.

"It's really striking how rapidly this is growing, how big it's become and how D.C. is just afraid of it," an advisor to the Social Security Administration and economist said.

One member of Congress has urged fellow lawmakers to join him in tackling the issue. However, many seem uninterested and fearful of being criticized.

In 2011, the disability program cost $132 billion. The average monthly benefit is $1,111. Although the program is costly, millions of Americans rely on the benefits for necessities. In fact, the money is keeping some people out of poverty.

In the last five years, the number of people applying for disability benefits has increased more than 30 percent. The tough economy has contributed to the problem as well as the aging population. As people near the age of 50, they are more likely to become disabled.

Many people take pride in their work. However, an illness or injury can derail a person's plans to continue working until retirement. With so many people dependent on Social Security disability benefits, it appears that Congress has quite a bit of work to do.

Source: The Washington Post, "Social Security disability trust fund projected to run out of cash by 2016," Brian Faler, May 30, 2012

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