SSDI Discourages Retraining of Disabled Workers

Even as the economic recovery has taken place there are still workers who have relied on the SSDI program as a safety net because they have no other skills that will qualify them for another job.  This is one of the major flaws in the current program.  Take for example former truck driver James Ottesen, who the Wall Street Journal wrote about On April 7, 2013.  The Journal reported that Mr. Ottesen, began receiving monthly payments in 2009, and said, “I’m not real happy” about being on disability. “It kind of reminds me of welfare.”  He would “like to get re-educated to do something” because “my body is broke but my mind is not.”   But even if the 53-year-old Ohio man learned of a job he could do with herniated discs, he said, the government disability program feels like “a blanket covering you, and to walk out from it…at my age, it’s a little intimidating.”

The WSJ noted that the current SSDI benefit system is extremely generous and encourages people to stay on the program versus look for another type of work.  “Payments, tied to a worker’s wage history, average $1,130 a month, which totals $13,560 a year. That is about $2,000 a year more than the federal poverty level for a single person and about $2,000 less than full-time wages at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. After two years, people on disability are eligible for Medicare health insurance—another government benefit that encourages recipients to stay put.”

It is true that the SSDI program benefits low-wage earners with limited skills and they will engage in whatever action or inaction benefits them best.  Many of these people do not want to forfeit economic security for the unknown in difficult and unforgiving job market.