Government spending is one of the most hotly debated issues in current American politics. So-called “tea-party” conservatives have quickly risen to prominence in Washington and around the country by calling for increased responsibility (and, therefore, more tightly-controlled spending) in government. Their platform does not lack for supporting evidence, as the U.S. government spent over $3 trillion just last year—an amount unimaginable to even the richest of people.
Social Security disability benefits (or Social Security Disability Insurance) are some of the most frequently discussed government expenditures because they account for a sizable chunk of that $3 trillion. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office revealed that the Social Security Administration overpaid disability benefits by $11 billion over the past ten years. This means that these benefits were given to people who actually made too much money to qualify for them. This raises an important question, both for non-disabled taxpayers and disabled Americans who may not be getting the benefits they deserve:
What is the Social Security Administration Doing with My Money?
Many people frame this question as one of wastefulness. So, is the SSA wasting money. It really depends on how you look at it. An article earlier this month in the Washington Post illustrated this point. By looking only at the fact that the excess benefits given out by the SSA totaled $11 billion, it’s understandable to feel like your tax money was wasted. To the average person, that is a huge amount. But to the U.S. government, it really isn’t.
In fact, to the U.S. government, that is a tiny amount. In the time it took for the SSA to rack up that $11 billion in excess benefits, they granted over $1 trillion in aid to people who legitimately qualified. That means that their overpayments amounted to less than 1% of the money they spent in the last decade. Most people would probably agree that a success rate of over 99% is pretty good for a program as big as SSDI.
But Still… $11 Billion is a Lot of Money
Yes, it is. And just because it is a drop in the bucket compared to the deluge of dollars spent by the government on other things, it shouldn’t be ignored. SSDI is a program that helps a lot of people, with over a million deserving people still waiting for assistance. Any amount of fraud or oversight that results in money spent incorrectly means that these people are being treated unfairly. We should always strive to do our part to both improve government and hold it accountable, especially when the well-being of our fellow citizens, and ourselves, is at stake.
If you are concerned about the state of Social Security policy or have questions about what is being done to make it more efficient, embrace your role in the democratic process and write your representative. If you have questions about the claims process or think you or someone close to you may qualify for disability benefits, contact us and we will help make SSDI work for you.