Sometime next year Social Security’s $150 billion disability-insurance program will become insolvent. The program, which offers income supplements to those who cannot work full time due to physical or mental disabilities, has buckled as the number of beneficiaries has soared to more than 11 million in 2014, from 3.8 million in 1984. The bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board has urged reforms.
Yet the Obama administration’s 2016 budget proposes the opposite of reform: an unconditional transfer of revenues from Social Security’s retirement program. The president’s proposal will likely be blocked thanks to a House budget rule that forbids unconditional revenue transfers. The question now is: Will serious reform be a reality under President Obama?
Americans today are about as likely as those in the past to report that they have a work-limiting disability, according to Census Bureau data. For instance, 5.6% of Americans ages 35-44 reported having a work-limiting disability in 1984, while in 2014 that figure was 5.4%. Likewise, self-reported measures of overall health have improved and workplace injuries have fallen.