SSDI Is Not a Handout – Let’s Stop Talking About it That Way

January 30th, 2019 by Attorney John Colvin

Social Security Disability Insurance

Words matter, because they shape our thoughts and feelings. Depending on the words we choose, someone can have a positive or negative opinion of something. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal disability insurance program for workers in Tennessee and across the country. It’s not welfare. It’s not a handout. Like any other insurance, you pay for it; and if you meet certain requirements, you should qualify for and collect benefits.

Social insurance programs (including Medicare and the Social Security Administration’s programs for retirement, disability, worker’s compensation, and worker’s life insurance) take up about 41% of the federal budget, according to an article in Salon. Over the years, these programs have been increasingly described more as welfare programs, charity for the undeserving, “entitlements” bloating the federal budget, not insurance where people pay into it and later get benefits out of it.

By the 1970’s, these social insurance programs became major parts of the federal government as well as targets of ideological and budgetary attacks. They were increasingly called “entitlements,” and considered a major reason for increased federal spending. This permitted critics to argue for much less commitment to these programs and to lobby for a less costly “safety net” for Americans.

Social insurance such as SSDI, like commercial insurance, is protection against financial risk. It’s “insurance” because we contribute to a fund to protect ourselves against an unpredictable financial risk – becoming too disabled to work. Unlike commercial insurance, contributions are not prices in the free market and not based on the chances that you may collect benefits.

Social insurance is a system of shared protection among the insured, like mutual insurance, where contributions are made in proportion to one’s income. With SSDI, the “insurer” is the Social Security Administration. The social insurance “contract” requires participation by law, because otherwise people would stop paying and the system would unravel.

The same risk in commercial insurance carries the same premium price. The greater the risk, the higher the premium. Social insurance bases contributions on one’s income, and benefits are based on one’s needs. The central political feature of social insurance is that contributors are beneficiaries. This isn’t true of social assistance programs, whose beneficiaries need to meet eligibility standards, including not having too much income or too many assets.

If you legitimately claim a social insurance benefit, there’s a duty by the government to provide that benefit. You should get what you paid for; you’re not asking for something someone else paid for. SSDI applicants shouldn’t suffer because of the bias of the program’s critics who don’t understand what it’s truly about.

Those who pay into the system and qualify for benefits should get them; otherwise, SSDI risks being labelled differently. Instead of being an “entitlement,” it could be called a “sham” or a “rip off” by those who work for a living and do their part by making contributions but don’t benefit from it.

If you have sought SSDI benefits and have been denied, or if you need guidance with the application process, we may be able to help. We understand how a denial of benefits can affect families, and we care about people receiving the compensation to which they’re entitled. Get your free consultation today – call us or complete our contact form.

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