From Crowdfunding to Crypto: The Changing Nature of Work and New Operational Challenges for Social Security’s Disability Benefits Programs in the 21st Century
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs provide economic support to individuals who are unable to work due to one or more medical disabilities. Amendments to the 1935 Social Security Act created the SSDI and SSI programs in the 1950s and 1970s, respectively. These programs define disability as the inability to perform work in the national economy at a substantial gainful level. For this reason, obtaining SSDI or SSI benefits involves proving to the SSA that the claimant, for medical reasons, is unable to perform jobs currently available in the national economy. Administering this type of program is understandably challenging, due not only to changes over time in medical practice, but also to changes in the ways that Americans work and earn money. This Article explores challenges to the SSDI and SSI programs posed specifically by the changing nature of work and income in the 21st century, including the advent of crowdfunding, online donation platforms, cryptocurrency, and new job titles and functions that change the way that Americans participate in the national economy. Clarification with respect to the SSA’s treatment of these new job functions and income sources could help claimants and their representatives navigate the SSDI and SSI programs with greater ease, from the initial application stage to income reporting and maintenance of eligibility for benefits.