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Eligibility determination for SSD benefits: are the methods apt?

For Missouri residents who are unable to work or support their family because of a disability, the Social Security Administration runs the Social Security Disability Insurance program. Many workers in Saint Charles, Missouri, and in the rest of the U.S., are covered by SSDI and they may be aware that the SSDI program is in jeopardy of running out of funds soon. According to experts, the problem lies with the method that the SSA follows to determine disability, and subsequent eligibility, for SSD benefits.

The SSA has two methods for determining whether an individual is eligible for SSD benefits. One method is called "Listing of Impairments," where an applicant has to provide sufficient medical evidence regarding a disability before obtaining SSD benefits. The other method is called the "Medical-Vocational Grid," and it applies to those cases where list-based determination is not possible. Interestingly, the last 30 years have witnessed grid-based eligibility determinations increasing from 20 percent to 50 percent.

Experts think that the "Medical-Vocational Grid" method, which uses criteria such as age, education, skills and language proficiency for Social Security Disability Benefits eligibility determination, is the reason for some, if not all, of the problems plaguing the SSDI trust fund. Experts point out that the grid was originally designed at a time when most forms of employment required physical activities or not knowing English used to be a barrier. Sadly, the grid system has not evolved to incorporate those major changes among the workforce.

For example, 50 percent of jobs required physical exertion in 1960 compared with 20 percent of jobs in 2008. Similarly, age-based disability determination was appropriate at a time when the majority of the workforce performed physical labor, but with more people now in the service sector this method proves difficult for those people who are over age 50 years but who are still working. Education has also increased; 80 percent of people, aged 25 or more, have graduated from high school at present compared with only 40 percent of workers who had graduated from high school in 1950.

Source: Economics21.org, "To Make Social Security Disability Insurance Fairer and Sustainable, Eliminate the Grid," Mark J. Warshawski and Ross A. Marchand, April 28, 2015

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Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
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