Social Security:

Federal Disability Programs Face Major Issues

T-HEHS-95-97: Published: Mar 2, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1995.

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GAO discussed its ongoing work on the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, focusing on the: (1) reasons for the dramatic growth in federal disability programs; and (2) impact of fraud and abuse on program growth and integrity. GAO noted that: (1) the number of blind and disabled persons under age 65 receiving DI or SSI benefits has increased 70 percent since 1985; (2) the cost of DI and SSI benefits has nearly doubled due to the cost of health care coverage; (3) the cost of providing Medicare and Medicaid to beneficiaries was about $55 billion in 1993; (4) several program changes have contributed to the increased number of persons receiving benefits; (5) the Social Security Administration (SSA) has expanded program eligibility standards, especially for mental impairments, and has reduced the barriers that prevent eligible individuals from applying for SSI benefits; (6) the number of beneficiaries with mental impairments increased from 586,000 in 1986 to 1 million in 1994; (7) the average disabled beneficiary receives about $225,000 in cash and medical benefits if he or she retains DI benefits until retirement; (8) the number of continuing disability reviews have declined dramatically because of SSA resource constraints and increasing workloads; (9) the recent increase in the number of persons without affordable health insurance may have affected the size of DI and SSI programs; and (10) SSA efforts to return DI and SSI beneficiaries to work have been inadequate.

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