Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Reform: An Overview of Proposals to Manage the Growth in the SSDI Rolls [January 9, 2015]   [open pdf - 707KB]

"Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to nonelderly workers with certain disabilities and their eligible dependents. As in Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI)--Social Security's retirement program--SSDI benefits are based on a worker's past earnings. To qualify, individuals must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years and be unable to engage in 'substantial gainful activity' (SGA) due to a severe mental or physical impairment that is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. In 2015, the monthly SGA earnings limit for most individuals is $1,090. In general, disabled workers must be unable to do any kind of substantial work that exists in the national economy, taking into account age, education, and work experience. Recently, some Members of Congress and the public have expressed concern over the growth in the SSDI program. Between 1980 and 2013, the number of disabled workers and their dependents more than doubled, rising from 4.7 million to 11.0 million. This increase has placed pressure on the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund, from which SSDI benefits are paid. Over the same period, spending on benefits increased by more than 50%, from 0.54% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1980 to 0.84% of GDP in 2013. Without legislative action, the DI trust fund is projected to be depleted by the end of 2016. After that, ongoing tax revenues would be sufficient to pay about 80% of scheduled benefits."

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CRS Report for Congress, R43054
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