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Social Security Disability Trust Fund may face insolvency by 2016

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the trust fund responsible for paying disability benefits is expected to post a deficit of $31.49 billion for 2013, marking the fifth straight year of shortfalls. Sadly, some worry that if nothing is done to protect the fund, its potential insolvency will ultimately lead to dire consequences for those who rely on their disability benefits to make ends meet.

The news of a forecasted deficit is particularly noteworthy given the fact that the fund - known as the Social Security Disability Trust Fund - actually experienced surpluses for 15 years prior to the recent five-year downward trend. Indeed, during the 57 years in which the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has been in place to assist disabled workers, the fund has only run a deficit 19 times.

Sadly, with a string of five shortfalls - totally around $115 billion - it likely comes as little surprise that the SSA now estimates that the disability fund, which has roughly $100 billion remaining, will be depleted by 2016 under current conditions.

Increased need for disability benefits

Many reasons have been posited for why the disability trust fund has recently faced additional burdens, including the simple reality that more workers are relying on disability benefits than in years past. For instance, while there were roughly only 7.4 million workers collecting disability payments a mere five years ago, as of October 2013, the SSA reported that number had ballooned to more than 8.9 million workers - a 20 percent increase. In fact, it is now estimated that 4.7 percent of working-age Americans receive disability benefits.

Given the seemingly inevitable insolvency of the disability trust fund, many are calling for reforms to the entire system. Although, it is important to remember that any tightening-up of disability standards will surely impact countless disabled workers.

For example, the SSA currently has a listing of impairments that outlines what conditions it considers severe enough to automatically classify the sufferer as disabled. If a sufferer has these conditions, or one very similar, he or she may be eligible for disability benefits. However, should these standards be made narrower, many disabled workers run the risk of having an even more difficult time obtaining their much-needed benefits.

Seek legal assistance if needed

Regardless of whether any reforms are actually taken, it appears that the process for applying for disability benefits will not become any simpler anytime soon. Accordingly, if you have developed a disability and want to learn if you are eligible for benefits, it is important to consult with an experienced disability rights attorney. A skilled attorney can review the circumstances of your disability and help navigate the complex SSDI application process.

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