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Without workers’ comp, workers turn to SSDI

Congress has been struggling to deal with the many issues the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has been facing. The growth of the system and the increase in associated costs have created pressures to do something. The greatest pressure will be to address the immediate funding shortfall, with the exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund.

This event, currently projected to occur sometime next year, could lead to a 20 percent cut in benefits to those currently in the program. Given that the average payment today is only slightly above the federal poverty line, a 20 percent cut to the payment would be devastating for many disabled workers.

And the usual suspects of “waste and fraud” are always trotted out by critics of the program, but beyond anecdotal examples, there is no evidence of widespread fraud, and there is little likelihood of adequate savings being wrung out of the program by attacking fraud.

Some ask why has the program grown so large, and one possible answer may be because many states have done much to dismantle their workers’ compensation insurance programs. Workers’ compensation was designed to provide injured workers and their families with medical care and income replacement when they were injured on the job.

It also protects employers from being sued by the workers for the negligence that often leads to the workers being injured.  

However, many states have cut back on the compensation and medical care this insurance used to provide, and in some cases, this drives the workers into poverty. If they cannot work and the benefits end, as many states’ programs now dictate, the workers are left with few options outside of SSDI.

While employers, insurers and the states save money, the taxpayers and ultimately the workers pay the greatest cost.

NPR.com, “Injured Workers Suffer As ‘Reforms’ Limit Workers’ Compensation Benefits,” Howard Berkes, Michael Grabell, ProPublica, March 4, 2015

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