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House rule change called bid to fight disability fraud

The claim that fraud runs rampant in the Social Security Disability Insurance program is one that has been around for quite a while. Critics raised a loud cry in this regard for much of last year.

Fresno readers will likely recall the gist of the accusation. It is that out-of-work individuals, many of them baby boomers who suffered job loss during the recent recession and who are too young to file for Social Security retirement, have succeeded in tapping the government well by making false claims of disability.

However, as anyone in Fresno who has gone through the rigors of SSDI application and appeal knows, it isn't that easy to get benefits. And as Reuters and others have reported, experts have observed that fraud isn't the main reason for the increase in disability claims.

They say the large numbers of boomers in the work force are now at that age when disabilities are surfacing -- driving up claims. At the same time, they note that the age at which full retirement benefits can be collected is rising from 65 to 67. That means it now takes longer for those receiving disability to hit the age when the benefits shift from the disability fund to the retirement fund. All that combined means greater financial strain on the disability fund.

The need for reform of SSDI is clear. Many likely know that it is projected to be out of money sometime in 2016. In decades past, Congress has reallocated funds from the more flush retirement bucket to cover gaps. But early this month the Republican majority House adopted a new rule that prohibits any such routine transfer going forward.

Backers of the rule say the move is intended to force disability program reforms to eliminate fraud. But many on Capitol Hill say it sets the stage for a political fight that could well result in disability beneficiaries suffering benefits cut of up to 20 percent.

Democrats say that in the face of the rule change, little is likely to occur in Congress before 2016. Some pundits suggest that should be a cue for some clear counter-action now by President Obama.

What do you think?

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