On August 22, the Associated Press published an article about the increasing need for Social Security disability benefits, in light of the continued economic downturn, the related pressures it places on the Social Security Administration, and Social Security’s projected long-term solvency.
Social Security is far more than a retirement program--more than one-third of all monthly Social Security checks go to people who are not retired. At least 11 million people with disabilities, their spouses and children receive Social Security benefits and this includes some people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). If you live with MS and are unable to work due to an MS-related disability and/or other conditions, you might be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Multiple sclerosis can be an extremely expensive disease to manage, with most people with MS being prescribed one of the “disease modifying therapies” and four to six other medications to ease symptoms and help maintain a high quality of life. Combined, drugs to help manage multiple sclerosis can exceed $30,000 per year or more than $800 per month out of pocket. The Social Security benefits people living with MS and other disabilities receive helps keep them out of poverty. More than one-half of disability insurance beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least 75 percent of their income.
In the 25-month period ending in October 2010, the number of claims pending a disability medical decision rose from 556,670 to 851,812, an increase of 53 percent. Despite these unprecedented challenges, the Social Security Administration (SSA) continues to utilize its resources to clear more hearing cases. Processing time for a hearing has been reduced from 491 days for all of FY 2009 to 377 days in the month of October 2010. SSA is on track to meet its commitment to eliminate the backlog, but needs continued resources to do so.
The National MS Society has supported annual appropriations for the SSA to continue driving down disability backlogs, improve services to people with disabilities, increase efficiency, and keep pace with the rising demands of the American public. As the newly-formed Congressional “supercommittee” considers ways to significantly reduce the nation’s long-term deficit, changes to Social Security are possible. The Society will continue collaborating with other disability organizations to help ensure that any changes to this program do not happen to the detriment of persons living with disabilities. To learn more about the importance of Social Security and possible changes, click here.