Strengthening Disability Insurance for Millions of Americans

Today 11 million Americans and their families depend on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Despite the program’s success as a lifeline for workers when they are confronted with serious injuries that render them unable to work, the program and its advocates are used to being on the defensive, especially during major Congressional budget negotiations. Our work on communications and campaign development helps organizations that defend public support programs harness the power of media to hold elected officials accountable to the public.

Although most Republicans consistently attack public support programs like SSDI, including Social Security and SNAP, among others, their views are extreme compared to voters – including Republicans. Polls show that 83 percent of Americans – including 75 percent of Republicans – agree that it would be unfair to cut SSDI benefits to working Americans who have paid into SSDI. In fact, right now, the most effective political ad from any U.S. presidential candidate is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ ad for strengthening Social Security, according to ad-scoring firm Ace Metrix as reported by news website Quartz.

Like Social Security, SSDI helps prevent catastrophes like hunger and homelessness and is vital to the economic security of workers and their families. Just a couple days ago, Carrie Aldrich, an Iowa resident at a Sanders’ campaign event, broke into tears as she responded to Sen. Sanders’ request for an audience member to share their experiences of living on $12,000 a year. In her brief but emotional response, Ms. Aldrich explains that not only does she currently have to work multiple jobs, she’s still waiting on her disability benefits to be approved.

Unfortunately, the wait time for SSDI claims often exceeds one year, with many people dying before being approved or receiving their first payment. Carrie’s testimony is already being called the most emotional moment of any political event in the 2016 cycle thus far, so it’s not surprising that her story has been picked up by major outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times.

It certainly seems likely that the next U.S. president will be held accountable to strengthening, not cutting or privatizing, programs like SSDI.

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