People who seek Social Security disability benefits face many financial, social, and health challenges, a recent study confirms, rebutting any notion that applicants who are denied benefits can shrug it off and return to work. As we mark the 64th birthday of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) this month, let’s remember not just how much hardship it alleviates but the continued struggles of people who fall short of its stringent eligibility standards.
The study’s author, longtime Social Security Administration and Congressional Budget Office researcher David Weaver, analyzes people who have ever received SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and those who’ve been rejected for them.
Compared with people who never sought benefits, Weaver finds, beneficiaries and rejected applicants alike are:
These findings echo past studies that tracked denied applicants and found limited employment and severe financial strain. As Weaver observes, little help — except a patchwork of social services, family aid, and vocational rehabilitation — is available to these unlucky people. Some might qualify for Social Security disability later as they grow older and their health worsens. Or they might have to hang on until they can receive early Social Security retirement benefits at 62.