Are Social Security Disability Benefits Socialism?

Disability Benefits

We received this question from a reader: “Is SSDI socialism?” We’ll do our best to answer that question in-depth below.

Is Social Security Disability a Form of Socialism?

Let’s start with the definition of socialism. Merriam-Webster defines it as “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Here are two distinguishing features about socialism:

  • Private property does not exist.
  • The government owns all systems or conditions of production in that society.

The latter might lead you to believe that Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is, in fact, socialism. After all, the Social Security Administration (SSA), which is a government entity, administers it. But there are no asset or income limitations for SSDI recipients. This means that a person who owns private property (such as a house) can receive SSDI benefits.

However, people often confuse SSDI with Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The SSA also administers the SSI program and imposes asset limitations for successful applicants. While SSI pays limited disability benefits to applicants younger than 65, it isn’t the same thing as SSDI.

What’s the Goal of Social Security Disability?

The SSA describes SSDI as a “social insurance program.” Does that make it an example of socialism?

The description also states that it is a program that provides benefits for disabled workers and their dependents. The main qualification SSDI claimants must be meet is that they can no longer work because of a disability. The program exists to partly replace lost work income due to one or more disabling health issues.

Creating a system to protect workers who can no longer do their jobs doesn’t automatically mean the program is a form of socialism. Nearly everyone in America pays into Social Security via payroll taxes, but not all do. Next, let’s take a closer look at who pays into Social Security and who doesn’t.

Why SSDI Isn’t Socialism

To fully consider whether SSDI is socialism, it’s vital to look at who contributes to the SSDI program. The short answer is that only some people contribute. That alone defies the principles of socialism, but let’s dig a little deeper. 

SSDI is financed through a dedicated payroll tax. This payroll tax is set by law and applies to all incomes (up to a certain limit). It’s automatically withheld from most people’s paychecks. You don’t have to calculate the amount or send payments to the SSA on your own.

This means that people who do not receive a standard paycheck often do not pay into the SSDI fund. People who work in the gig economy don’t pay into SSDI, for example. This can include Uber or Lyft drivers, people deliver groceries with Instacart or meals with GrubHub.

Non-resident alien workers also do not contribute, nor do federal employees and some unionized workers (think teachers and public safety workers, for instance). Some qualifying religious organizations are also exempt from Social Security payroll taxes. While it’s possible that some of those workers can opt in if they want, many do not.

The federal government expects self-employed workers to pay into SSDI on their own. They’re also expected to accurately report their quarterly and annual earnings. The SSA has particular evaluation guidelines for self-employed workers.

It’s also true that not everyone who’s disabled or cannot work will qualify to collect SSDI payments. You must have worked long enough, and recently enough, to qualify for SSDI. And the SSA doesn’t approve every claim.

What Do I Do if I Become Disabled and Can’t Keep Working?

The SSA process and procedures can be daunting to anyone, but especially so for those who have never filed a claim or explored their eligibility for benefits. It can be hard to find the right information, understand which forms to file, and meet all the requirements for a successful claim.

For most people, working with an experienced Social Security attorney gives them the highest possible chance for approval. That’s because it nearly triples your approval odds within months (not years) after you file.

Have questions about SSDI benefits or whether you might qualify? There’s great information right here on our site. Click the button below to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a local attorney today to discuss your claim.

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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.