The Social Security Administration has released the numbers on the operation of its Disability Insurance Trust Fund through the end of the second quarter of calendar year 2015. The Trust Fund stood at $50.8 billion as of the end of June. Here are some numbers showing how things have been going.
- The Disability Trust Fund lost $3.5 billion in the second quarter of this year compared to a loss of $4.1 billion in the second quarter of 2014.
- The Trust Fund has lost $9.4 billion so far this year compared to a loss of $10.4 billion in the first half of last year.
- In the past four quarters the Trust Fund lost $29.2 billion, compared to a loss of $30.9 billion in the four quarters before that.
The trend is clear. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is losing money and will be exhausted in the not too distant future. However, it's not been losing ground as fast as it was. If the Trust Fund loses ground at the same rate as it has over the last year, it will barely limp into January 2017 before running out of money. If Trust Fund operations continue to improve as they have been improving lately, it will last a bit longer, until around the end of the first quarter of calendar year 2017. The only way you get the Trust Fund running out of money before the end of 2016, as Social Security's actuaries have done, is to project that the Trust Fund will start doing worse than it's been doing, which is certainly possible, but which seems unlikely at the moment.
To remind readers, the Social Security Administration could dramatically change the prospects of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, possibly preventing it from ever running out of money, by changing its position on benefit payments to those who are dually eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits and a Social Security Retirement or Survivors benefit. Now the dually eligible are always paid the Disability Insurance Benefit first and any extra benefit is paid out of the Retirement and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. The statute doesn't require this. Reversing this doesn't require Congressional approval and doesn't affect any benefit payments either now or in the future. Why go through endless bickering and threats to disability claimants and recipients when it's easy to make the problem go away?