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New report calls for incentives to retain disabled workers; June report explains SSDI, VDC differences and goals

By Mike Hinshaw
If you live in Connecticut, this may be of interest, from TheDay.com: WHO: Linda, a 67-year-old grandmother of three, who became responsible for her daughter's children after her daughter became too ill from HIV to care for them any longer. AGENCY: Alliance for Living. THEIR SITUATION: Linda had her daughter move back home to New London after she was diagnosed with HIV. Her daughter's medications and health condition leave her with little energy, so like so many grandparents today, Linda is now raising her daughter's children. The kids range in age from 8 to 15. They are living on their mother's Social Security disability income supplemented by grandma's Social Security. Their Christmas wish is for mom to be well again. WHAT TO GIVE: Gift cards to grocery and department stores. TO DONATE: Donations can be dropped off at the Alliance for Living, 154 Broad St., New London, 06320. For more information, call Cheryl at (860) 447-0884, ext. 229.

Joint report: Keep disabled workers, help SSDI system

According to a Nov. 27 article in The Washington Post, a joint report from the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project and the Center for American Progress has concluded that "The government should create incentives for employers to retain disabled workers on their payrolls as a way of slowing unsustainable increases in the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits." According to this blog, the report will be released in a few days and will call for upfront action: "The report by the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project and the Center for American Progress, to be released on Dec. 3, urges adding a 'front end' of benefits to keep the disabled in their jobs and slow down the rapidly growing expense of the federal disability program, also known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). "Before workers could receive SSDI benefits, they would have to be approved for benefits from the private policy — benefits that would go toward rehabilitation services, partial income support and other related services."

Troubling figures, revisited

We have reported on the increase in SSDI applicants, particularly the spike from 2008 to 2009, when demand jumped 21 per cent. The Post cites the new report as providing more troubling figures: "Between 1989 and 2009, the share of working-age adults receiving SSDI has doubled to 4.6 percent, and the cost of the program has more than tripled from $40 billion to $121 billion in the same time period, the report said. "Strikingly, the enrollment increases have not coincided with an increase in disabilities; roughly 10 percent of adults have reported disabilities in both 1989 and 2009. Instead, the enrollment increases reflect 'a rising rate of dependency and a declining rate of labor force participation among adults with disabilities,' the report stated." As soon as we can get a copy of the report, we'll discuss it and provide links.

Congressional Research Service report: SSDI versus Veterans Disability Compensation

A Nov. 23 post at a site for what its "About" page says is a global publishing and subscription provider for "research, compliance and management tools for attorneys, consultants, corporations and government agencies," has a nice primer on June 2010 report from the Congressional Research Service that "sought to clarify why one group of individuals with disabilities may be eligible for benefits under the Veterans Disability Compensation program (VDC), but ineligible for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program under the Title II of the Social Security Act (SSDI)." Here's a link to the report itself: "Disability Benefits Available Under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Veterans Disability Compensation (VDC) Programs."

Two of 'largest programs' have important differences

According to the report summary, SSDI, administered by the Social Security Administration, and VDC, administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, "are two of the largest federal disability programs, but strongly differ along several dimensions, including the populations served, how each program defines a 'disability,' as well as varying eligibility requirements." The report summarizes three crucial differences:
First, SSDI is an insurance program that replaces a portion of earnings for an eligible worker whose illness or injury—while not necessarily caused by a work-related incident—results in an inability to work. SSDI is one of several federal programs funded through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll tax and the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax to which all workers and employers in covered occupations (including military personnel) and self-employed individuals make contributions. On the other hand, VDC is not insurance, but is a compensation program in that payments are made to veterans who develop medical conditions that are related to their service in the military. VDC is non-contributory and neither veterans nor active military personnel pay into the program, which is funded through a mandatory appropriation as part of the VA annual budget. Second, while the purpose of both SSDI and VDC is to provide income security, SSDI provides a financial “safety-net” to eligible civilian and military workers due to their inability to work as a result of long-term or terminal injury or illness. Conversely, VDC provides veterans with tax-free, cash benefits specifically for service-connected illnesses or injuries. The ability to work is not factored into VDC disability determinations, although additional compensation is available for veterans who are unemployable as the result of a service-connected condition(s). Third, SSDI only compensates workers that are fully disabled, whereas VDC compensates veterans for both partial and fully disabling injuries and illnesses. The VA is further guided by a principle that views disability compensation as an obligation, owed to veterans, for injuries impacting employment that were incurred or aggravated by their service to the country. SSDI benefits are granted solely on medical and economic grounds and other noneconomic factors are not considered. Eligibility requirements generally tend to be more stringent for SSDI than [for] VDC, and most veterans will not likely meet the criteria for both programs.