Social Security Disability Trust Fund Could Go Bust in 2018

Apr 8, 2011, 10:42 by Victor Ryan

The Social Security Disability Trust Fund, which provides monetary assistance to more than 8.2 million disabled Americans, is projected to run out of money by 2018, the New York Times reports.

The forecast is based on the fact that more in benefits have been paid out than payroll taxes have taken in for the last five years. It's largely because the number of Americans receiving disability checks have risen from 5 million in 2001 to 8.2 million today. About $115 billion is now spent annually on Social Security Disability benefits.

The difficult job market has also played a major role in the depletion of the disabled trust fund, which was originally designed for those "permanently and totally disabled." Some economists say the benefits have become "kind of a shadow safety net" for those unable to find work.

"In an atmosphere in which there is a concern about fiscal problems, it's always easy to point the finger at groups and say, 'These people should be working,'" said Prof. John Bound, an economist at the University of Michigan.

The New York Times notes another reason for the situation is that a 1999 law that launched the Ticket to Work program has had little success transitioning those with moderate disabilities back into the workforce.

The New York Times reports that over the last 18 months, only 13,656 people out of 12.5 million eligible for the program have found work. Only one-third of those earned enough to drop their benefits.

Social Security officials said the Ticket to Work program has been modified since its inception, but it will likely never to have a big impact on the disability trust fund.

"We could make this program exponentially more successful and it wouldn�t be enough to dramatically improve the solvency picture," said Michael J. Astrue, the commissioner of Social Security. "You do it because work--for people who can work--gives them dignity and improves their economic condition.�