In the next year, Social Security is expected to run short of funds to pay full promised disability benefits. Unless something is done, available revenue for the combined retirement and disability system will cover only 79 percent of scheduled benefits in 2034, and the share falls over time.
For decades, large long-range deficits have loomed for Social Security, but short-run surpluses have left Congress complacent, unwilling to make the hard choices to fix the system.
The approaching disability shortfall may spark efforts to reform all of Social Security, including the much larger retirement program. Several presidential candidates, including Republican candidate Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, have put forth serious Social Security reform plans.
Our analysis shows that some of the most popular reform options won’t help much. They will only delay for a few years the day when Social Security can no longer fully pay its promised benefits.