During the COVID-19 pandemic when good news is hard to come by, some hope was just received following the release of the 2020 Social Security Trustees Report. As many are aware, the economic sustainability of the Social Security Trust Fund has long been in question. Millions of recipients of Social Security disability benefits have wondered how long the Social Security Administration would be able to continue paying benefits. Most have assumed that someday the well would dry up. Fortunately, that day may not be coming anytime soon.
The Social Security Board of Trustees recently released their 2020 annual report and the financial viability of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund has improved substantially. It is now predicted that full disability benefits can be paid through 2065, which is 13 years longer than predicted in the 2019 annual report and 33 years longer than indicated in the 2018 report. After 2065, while full benefits may not be possible, it is predicted that the Trust Fund would still be able to pay 92% of benefits.
The improved financial outlook of the Trust Fund can be attributed in part to the increased numbers of individuals who:
- Graduate out of the disability program and move into the retirement or survivor’s benefit programs;
- Pass away; or
- Medically improve, all of which saves money and contributes to the sustained viability of the Trust Fund.
It can also be attributed to a steady decline in disability applications since 2010, the lower numbers of individuals in current SSDI pay status since 2014 and over-estimates by the Social Security Administration as to disability application and approval rates which skewed prior reports.
While the continued solvency of the Trust Fund is obviously good news for all recipients of Social Security disability benefits, the X-factor is the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic as no one can accurately predict whether changes related to COVID-19 will protect the solvency of the Trust Fund or work to destroy it. Only time will tell and Congress still has to decide whether to raise taxes to increase Social Security revenues or to reduce benefits to keep Social Security fully solvent beyond the current 2035 estimate.
For now, Social Security disability recipients can take comfort knowing that the Social Security Trust Fund should continue to pay out full benefits for the foreseeable future. Any questions as to the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund and its impact on your receipt of disability benefits should be raised with an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Henson Fuerst.
(Content for this post is drawn in part from an April 24, 2020 NOSSCR (“National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives”) press release).