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The Willis Report

Getting Serious About Entitlement Reform

More entitlement troubles for Americans. We've told you how Social Security is set to run out of funds by 2037, and Medicare will likely only survive through 2029.

Dire situations? Yes, but not as dire as the situation facing the Social Security Disability Program - set to go belly up as soon as 2015.

The fund was set up in 1957 for workers who due to injury or illness can no longer work and paid for by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, which is taken out of Americans' paychecks.

In 2005, SSDI began giving out more than it took in, which sounds like the Social Security Fund itself, right?

According to The Wall Street Journal, in four years the fund is expected to dole out more than $150 billion, but only take in about $130 billion.

Why? Because more than ten million people joined the program last year alone. That's an increase of about a half-million people from 2009 and the largest one-year increase ever.

Now while the payouts from the disability fund aren't exorbitant - usually coming in at around a thousand dollars a month -some recipients will spend most of their adult life on the program and could end up taking home $300,000.

The high number of new enrollees is one problem SSDI. How it's determined who qualifies is another.

Unlike Medicare and Social Security, you are not enrolled based on age, but on medical opinions - which can vary depending on the physician. A group of people working for the SSDI decide if you qualify based on your medical records and a judge can hear your appeal.

As the Journal points out, because others - namely the American taxpayer - pay the bills, local officials aren't worried about keeping enrollment numbers low.

In Puerto Rico alone, 63 % of applicants are approved to receive benefits, as well as 59% in New Jersey and Wyoming.
Nationally, almost half get approved. In fact, too many get the okay, according to the government accountability office which said many who do not deserve the help are getting it.

So how to fix it?

Some say raising taxes, while others suggest folding the fund into the main social security program. Fix a failing program with another failing program?

Harry Reid has already said he won't even look at reforming Social Security for 20 years, when this program will be long-gone.

It's time to start getting serious about entitlement reform- before we have nothing left to fix.

Be sure to catch the Willis Report on the FOX Business Network every weekday from 5-6pm ET.

Gerri Willis joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in March of 2010. Willis is an anchor and personal finance reporter for the network.

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