SSDI: Why are Disability Awards Skyrocketing?

In short, they aren't skyrocketing. The perception that government has run amuck is not always true. The number of people on disability and the rate of awards for disability are in decline.  Please see the chart below.  Note: most of the information presented below comes from the "Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2017".

 

 

The chart above shows the total number of people on disability.  Looking at the data, the peak occurred in 2013.  The peak for workers only happened in 2014.  The downward trend is likely to continue.  Why, prior to the peak, did disability rates rise so much?  The increase is mostly attributable to the increase of women in the workforce and aging baby boomers and the general increase in population.

 

 

It might appear to be a steep increase.  It is helpful to put it in perspective.  The following chart has been added.  It shows that the rate of increase of social security retirees is about the same as the increase in those on disability between the late 80s and about 2013, after which disability beneficiaries started to decrease.  After putting it in perspective, it is clear that the increase in disability beneficiaries was nothing abnormal or a result in changes in the law or administrations making it easier to get disability.

 

 

Here is a look at the age of new applicants from the Council for Disability Awareness:

 

 

Some might have thought that the average age was decreasing.  That is not true.  Perhaps we are living healthier lives.

 

Looking at the chart below, the peak number of applications and awards, occurred in 2011.  The number of awards seemed to level out in 2017, even though applications are in decline.  It should be noted that not only have applications declined, but the termination of benefits are also on the increase.

 

 

What is the typical profile of someone on disability?  The Social Security Administration (SSA) answers this question in the summary below. 

 

 

Although the average age is 55, the peak number of those on disability is between 60-64.  It has been suggested that disability has nothing to do with age.  From the chart below, one can see that it is indeed age dependent.  Naturally, we have more health issues as we age.


 

 

The percentages of disability beneficiaries by state is shown below.  The New England and Southeast have high percentages than the western half of the nation.  The chart is a little deceptive.  Overwhelmingly, California has the highest number of people on disability.

 

 

Here is the distribution of the number of disability recipients by state. 

 

What do they suffer from?  See the chart below.  Overwhelmingly, for both men and women, the leading impairment is the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues.  The next closest is mental disorders.  

What do these mean?  For that, we must consult the list of impairments.  Rather than reprinting it here, I refer you to the link.  Below, I have included a list below from the Council for Disability Awareness.  The list is in layman's terms and may be easier to follow. 

 

 

 

How much do beneficiaries receive?  We know the average figure from above, but that does not tell the entire story.  See the chart below for a breakdown by age and sex.

 

 

It's not surprising that the older beneficiaries receive more.  You might be surprised that men, particularly older men, receive higher benefits than women.  Men tend to earn more and therefore receive a higher benefit.  Older men have generally participated longer than women.   

 

Here is a look at the distribution of payouts by amount.  Please see the table below.

 

In the future, I hope to write about the murky world of employment, short-term disability, long-term disability, workman's comp, and SSA disability.  It's events that not many consider until it happens.

Comments

George N Romey Added Nov 29, 2018 - 11:46am
I tell you why.  With the loss of job security many older Americans age 50+ are in the job market.  Unless they have very specialized skills they are the last to be hired, or at least at a job that can support themselves.  At age 52 its not like you can move in Mom's basement and get some kind of IT degree and hope like hell you get hired once you have that degree.
 
There is no stress like financial stress (see an online article today on suicide on usa.com.)  Mental stress leads to physical issues particularly at age 50+.  The ultimate answer?  File a disability claim.
 
When I went through my period of unemployment counselor after counselor encouraged me to file a disability claim instead of soldiering on and finding a good job.  It took me 5 years to do so.  The stress was undefinable.   I stayed strong both physically and mentally but can see how many older people would have just been broken beyond repair.  
Leroy Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:24pm
I agree, George.  If you have no other options and you have a disability, why not file for it.  I salute you for hanging in there and finding a job.
 
As Troll Hunter explained, there are two age breaks: 55 and 60.  Maybe the SSA realizes that the older you get the less the chances are that you can find a job.  For example, if you are over 60, you can spend a couple of years of retraining to MAYBE work an additional few years, that is if someone will hire you.  The investment will never pay off.  
Leroy Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:25pm
Looks like most of the graphs didn't appear.  I'll have to re-insert them.
Troll Hunter Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:27pm
As a former Claims Examiner II for SSDI in Tennessee, would you like to hear some ways workers were able to get so many people denied for disability?
Leroy Added Nov 29, 2018 - 12:44pm
Sure, Troll Hunter.  That would be interesting.
Troll Hunter Added Nov 29, 2018 - 1:18pm
I want to preface this by saying that most (95% or so) of the workers I knew were good, honest folks.  However, there are a few bad apples.  
 
So, in the job, there is a LOT of pressure to get disability cases "off the books", as they say.  If a worker has too many open cases, they get fired, simple as that.  Thus, we tried our best to finish these cases.  What we find out quite quickly is that the easiest way to get cases closed is if the applicant doesn't turn in paperwork.  There is a clock that starts counting as soon as we get a case, and if an applicant doesn't turn stuff in on time, the clock winds down pretty fast, and they are denied their claim.  
 
We workers were never trained to do anything illegal or shady, but there were some HUGE loopholes (that were there for at least since the 80s) where "accidentally" a worker may let something slip through, and the client gets screwed.  The way our computer system was set up was that when we would request a file to be printed and sent to the applicant, the computer would print the forms to a nearby printer where another worker would go and pick it up.  That worker's job was literally to just pick up the newly printed materials, address it to the applicant, and mail it off.  That worker normally collects stuff off the printer a few times an hour, as they are responsible for the paperwork of 5-8 claims examiners, and the printer would fill up quickly.
 
Once these forms are sent off, the applicant has x amount of days to fill them out and send them in.  What some examiners found out they could do is just, after requesting the forms be printed out, simply walk the 20 feet to the printer, and take the forms off of it before the other worker had a chance to get them.  The examiner would then just shred the documents.  Client never gets forms, has no idea what's going on, and before they know it, they are denied.
 
Now, you might be thinking "Hey now!  Isn't there some proof or failsafe way to ensure the documents were actually sent off?"  
Not really.  The only "proof" is in the computer system we use (from the 80s) where a box is "checked off" once a form is REQUESTED to be printed.  That "request" is literally the only way to prove it got sent.  So you now might be asking "Okay, so once the request is made, doesn't the other worker (the one whose job is to collect the printed forms and send them off) get a notification that forms were printed, so they KNOW they have something to send off?"
I do not know the answer to that question.  My best guess is no, because NEVER did that worker come up to anyone and ask "Say, did you print something off for your client?".  It was never brought up, never addressed, and everyone just shut their mouths because they were too busy to meddle in other workers' affairs.
 
So, the client doesn't get the forms, clock runs out, they are denied, case is cleared in quickest way possible.  Now, you might think "Hey!  Wouldn't that be a red flag if an examiner has so many denied claims because of paperwork not turned in?  Isn't that bad?  What do the bosses think?"  
The answer is NO!  Not only was it not a red flag, these examiners would be PRAISED in emails sent by the DIRECTOR of SSDI to every worker in the building for that examiner's speedy clearance of cases.  
We got the hint- these actions were condoned, plain and simple.  
 
Now, this was just Tennessee, a state not known for its modernity.  For all I know, other states have better, newer systems in place where these forms can't slip through the cracks (and into the shredder!).  And again, not many workers did this, but it does happen.  So this is one example, and I have a few more, if anyone wants to hear.
The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 29, 2018 - 1:34pm
I'm shocked!
Leroy Added Nov 29, 2018 - 5:30pm
Thanks, Troll Hunter!
Johnny Fever Added Nov 30, 2018 - 8:33am
I think you should take a closer look at your own chart. What I see is a rapidly increasing quantity of disabled workers in a very short amount of time. To be sure, recently there has a little blip downwards, but that blip is nothing compared to the increase.
 
Isn’t it interesting how the blip downwards coincides very closely to when Trump was elected. It’s also interesting how the rapid increase coincides closely to when Obama was president. What it tells me is that Democrats like to give away free stuff and disability benefits is one of the easiest things to give away and most difficult things to take away.  Kudos to Trump for attempting to end the insanity.  
Gerrilea Added Nov 30, 2018 - 9:20am
Leroy, how many Americans are getting some kind of "assistance"? 
 
151 MILLION.
 
Yes the government has gone insane.
Leroy Added Nov 30, 2018 - 9:28am
Thanks for your feedback, Johnny.  It's amazing how two people can look at the same charts and see the opposite.  There's a chart above from the Council for Disability Awareness.  It condenses the information from this report.  I haven't read the report.  In the summary, it states that 90% of the increase is due to women entering the workforce and aging baby boomers.
 
I don't see where the data reflects Trumps time in office.  The downward trend started under O.  But, you know;  you are right.  There was a quantum leap in the number of applications and awards just after O was elected.  Those take a while to filter through.  You should be happy to note that termination of benefits is on the rise.  I don't know why, but I suspect beneficiaries are dying off.  The largest group is those between 60 and 64.  Death catches up with you more rapidly as you age.
 
I suspect that with the tightening labor market, companies will make more accommodations and job opportunities will increase.  I believe what George said is true.  Older workers without jobs have been encouraged to file for disability.  If one is persistent, there is a high probability.  If the economy hangs on, we will see a more rapid decrease SSDI beneficiaries.
 
It does get discouraging.  The Council for Disability Awareness projects that one in four of today's twenty-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.  Wow!  The older generation may be supporting them while they have the last laugh.  The majority of new applicants are women (by a 55/45 percent margin).  That's a little shocking and also contributed to the overall increase as women entered the workforce in greater numbers.
Leroy Added Nov 30, 2018 - 10:22am
What your Personal Disability Quotient (PDQ)?  Want to find out?  Go here.  It will ask you a few basic questions.  My results was as follows:
 
Based on you(r) input, this is your Personal Disability Quotient. It reflects your own chance of becoming ill or injured and unable to work before you retire for...
 

3 months or longer 9%
 
If you do become disabled for 3 months, your chances of the disability lasting 5 years or longer 46%
 
The average length of a long-term disability for someone like you 85 months.
 
It will also calculate your Earnable Income Quotient (EIQ), which is the amount you stand to lose in earning due to a disability.  It's nothing magical, basically your earning potential is you weren't disabled.
 
It's scary.  Are you prepared?  Believe me; worker's comp--in case of a workplace injury--and long-term disability insurance aren't likely what you think they are.
wsucram15 Added Nov 30, 2018 - 10:37am
Leroy;
I spoke in DC on this issue only because the stress of what George speaks of killed my boss and I was extremely close to his entire family.  So I wrote a letter and it got picked up by a legal advocacy group along with the ACLU and I ended up in DC in the Capital, a couple of times.
There was a 4 page article in the newspaper here about my speaking both on the State and Federal levels about what George spoke about and what I saw happen.
I know at one point, the government was encouraging people of a certain age to go on disability to get them off the books statistically.
However, I dont know if anyone knows how this works, but its not that simple.  I dont know how people survive to get disability. It takes a couple of years minimum.  Its not like it is handed to you.  Also permanent disability is not permanent.  There are various stages of disability and many people do not get full disability only partial.  This is after fighting for some time.  Also as employment rises the disability applications have decreased.  Most people are denied even with an attorney, I think its like 65%.
 
The reason you are seeing so many more people on there is that it is the end of the baby boomer generation..and they were all forced out to make way for millennials and GenX, Y and Z. 
 
That is literally what happened..its wrong, but it is what happened.  Also there is NO WAY that over 40% of  the population is on disability. I think its like 4.8% and that might be high. So out of 325 million people you have 10.5 million older Americans or children on some sort of disability?   So thats something like 3.5% of handicapped children or older people that are disabled. Right?
 
 
 
wsucram15 Added Nov 30, 2018 - 10:45am
Leroy..btw, your government is well aware of these statistics and also the reasons.  I sat in the capital building and listened to them argue about this topic as well as many others.
Leroy Added Nov 30, 2018 - 11:30am
Thanks, WSU.  It would be interesting to see some of your testimony.
 
"Most people are denied even with an attorney, I think its like 65%."
 
Yeah.  It is more like 78% are initially denied.  The 65% figure is about right for all applications.  The biggest reason it is so low is that applicants don't follow through.  Troll Hunter is correct; many people can't manage to file the paperwork on time.  I maintain that you have about 70% chance or greater if you are persistent and timely and, of course, have a good case. 
 
"It takes a couple of years minimum."
 
It can be much quicker than that for some people.  It only takes two or three months for some.  I haven't seen figures on the average time, but I suspect it is in the two to three-year time frame.  It's taking almost two years the get a hearing and a decision these days, if you don't win at the initial step or in the reconsideration.  It appears to take six or seven years for all applications to be settled.  I wonder about the percentage of applicants who die waiting.
 
"Also there is NO WAY that over 40% of  the population is on disability."
 
You're right, and if I wrote that somewhere, I was wrong.  Somewhere I read where 4.7% of workers go on disability.
 
Thanks again for your feedback.
 
 
Dave Volek Added Nov 30, 2018 - 3:22pm
Leroy
 
Thank you for putting this interesting post. I like Jean's comments that older people are getting more disability these days because maybe they need to "get off some other government department's books."
 
In 1998, I came down with a disability and the insurance company that I had paid premiums for 12 years played hardball. It took about a year to a settlement out of them, and during that time, I had depleted my savings, which really wasn't helpful to my recovery.
 
From your table, it seems not too many Americans are getting rich from their DI. We could argue most of them are not even making a subsistence living--which makes it kind of hard to be called a malingerer.
 
As I was going through my tribulations with the insurance company (I couldn't work so I had too much free time), I did some research on the state of the DI in Canada and the USA (to get to know my enemy). The research (pre 2000) suggested that economic climate has a lot to do with DI claims. A recession sees increases in claims, a robust economic leads to fewer claims. This suggests a significant level of malingering.
 
And I came to the conclusion that the DI industry plays hardball a lot because it would be insolvent if it accepted all reasonable claims. There was even actuarial data that many claimants die within a couple of years, saving the insurance company lots of money. 
 
I think a lot of these issues would go away if we all went to a Guaranteed Basic Income.
 
Leroy Added Nov 30, 2018 - 4:24pm
Thanks for your comments, Dave.  I've had to deal with insurance companies too.  They're a pain.  There is nothing they want do to wiggle out of a claim.
 
As mentioned, there was a spike in beginning about the time Of was elected.  It likely was due to the economic downturn and not liberal policiy.
 
I sometimes think the government pays benefits so the claimants will die early.  You're right; the average benefit is not much.  Generally, it is a direct reflection of what their retirement benefits will be.  Many chose to retire at 62 and receive about 70% of that.  Couple that with the average American unable to come up with $400 in an emergency without borrowing and you get an idea just how bad some have it.
Johnny Fever Added Dec 1, 2018 - 8:51am
“It's amazing how two people can look at the same charts and see the opposite.”
 
I’d call it sad.  All it says is that people are so biased that even when presented with evidence, they will still twist that evidence to suit their predetermined position.  I believe that’s exactly what you did and give you a lot of credit for changing your position from what you wrote in your article. 
 
In addition, to Trump not actively trying to put people on the disability rolls, I think an improving economy is the main reason benefits are on the decline.  A life on the public doll is simply not as fulfilling as a life spent working. 
 
Once again, older people qualify for social security, so they don’t earn disability benefits. 
 
As for disability payments coming down rapidly, no fucking way.  Once someone starts receiving benefits, they infrequently desire to re-enter the workforce.
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 10:14am
"I’d call it sad.  All it says is that people are so biased that even when presented with evidence, they will still twist that evidence to suit their predetermined position.  I believe that’s exactly what you did and give you a lot of credit for changing your position from what you wrote in your article."
 
I haven't changed my position, Johnny.  As mentioned in another comment, the deteriorating economy that coincided with O's election is the likely cause of the jump in applications.  I don't think Americans were thinking, "Hey! O just got elected.  Let's can get a bunch of free stuff."  It takes time for policies to have an effect.  There is no intentional bias on my part.  Just listen to what others such as George and WSU and Troll Hunter are saying.  Check yourself.
 
"In addition, to Trump not actively trying to put people on the disability rolls, I think an improving economy is the main reason benefits are on the decline."
 
I agree with you, Johnny, but the downward trend came before Trump.  If the US had not had the economic downturn in 2007-2008 and continuing for some time after, the downward trend would have started earlier.  I do give Trump credit for the current boom in hiring and we should see claims decrease as well as many of those on benefits returning to work.  
 
"A life on the public doll is simply not as fulfilling as a life spent working."
 
I don't know, Johnny; many may find those public dolls satisfying.  I suppose they tire of them and go back to the private dolls.  ;-) 
 
"Once again, older people qualify for social security, so they don’t earn disability benefits."
 
You ignore the fact that disability pays more than for those who choose early retirement.  Once one hits the full retirement age (FRA), there is no difference and disability converts to retirement.
 
"As for disability payments coming down rapidly, no fucking way.  Once someone starts receiving benefits, they infrequently desire to re-enter the workforce."
 
I agree with you there.  There is a low probability of someone returning to the workforce.  Laws make it difficult for the SSA to take away benefits.  There has to be a significant medical improvement and that is not so easy to prove.  The older one gets, the more likely it is that they won't return to work.  As Dave pointed out, the average payment is not much.  With a good economy and opportunities, that has to be a strong motivator to return to the workforce.
Troll Hunter Added Dec 1, 2018 - 10:56am
In Tennessee, there was a HUGE increase in SSDI applications and acceptances in the mid 90s.
 
The reason?
NAFTA.
 
Thousands of workers lost their jobs as they were outsourced to other countries for cheaper labor.
 
The economy does influence SSDI, but it's not because people are now suddenly all lazy.  They lose jobs.  2008-2011 were horrible for the economy.  Hell, I got laid off from a job in 2009 I was more than qualified for, and ended up joining the army.  I was lucky enough I wasn't too old or broken to do something else.
 
 
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 11:11am
Johnny, I added a chart to the article that shows social security retirees and disability beneficiaries in the same chart.  It should now be obvious that the increase in disability beneficiaries is nothing extraordinary.
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 11:14am
TH, it is curious that the chart added to the article shows that the increase started about the time of NAFTA.  It didn't slow down until a few years ago.  
Troll Hunter Added Dec 1, 2018 - 11:27am
One of the reasons people get accepted for SSDI is because they don't have transferable job skills.  Many of those in the 90s had manufacturing jobs where they basically pressed a button or did heavy manual labor.  When those jobs disappeared, there was literally nothing else they were qualified to do.
 
That's one of the reasons I said on the other SSDI thread of yours that an applicant should downplay any sort of managerial work they may have done.  Manager skills ARE very transferable, and that's why most people with ANY sort of manager-type job history get denied.  
 
That's just how the system is set up.  It's unfortunate because most of these people are in their 50s, are in pain (most have very bad arthritis and other conditions that impair mobility), but are denied because they once had a job where they were a "decision maker" in their company, aka some sort of "manager".
Troll Hunter Added Dec 1, 2018 - 11:36am
Most of the applicants are/were hardworking and proud folks.  When they file for SSDI, they say how good of a worker they were, how responsible they were, how much influence or power they may have had in their past jobs.  They are basically saying "I did my best, did well, now I can't do it anymore."  
 
It's human nature to be proud of your past work and you want to show others how well you did.  Unfortunately, that's what hangs them in the application.  It's counter-intuitive, but if they just said "I was a scumbag loser who did the bare minimum just to not get fired", they have a MUCH better chance at getting SSDI.  If you show ANY sign that you might be able to do some sort of managerial work, you're screwed, plain and simple.  That's also another reason many Spanish-speaking folks get SSDI.  Their English was so bad, they COULDN'T be hired or promoted as a manager, so they don't have transferable skills, and they get SSDI over those who speak English well and get promoted.
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 11:56am
TH, in the other thread, I posted a YouTube link.  It follows an applicant from application to filing a suit against the SSA.  He doesn't get disability but he does get a happy ending at the SSA.  One thing I learned from it is that if you are in pain, you better be taking prescription medications.  Over the counter painkillers show that the pain isn't that great.
Johnny Fever Added Dec 1, 2018 - 12:26pm
Has there been a quantum leap or are SSDI benefits not skyrocketing?  See what I mean about your article being in contradiction to your comments?
 
“But, you know;  you are right.  There was a quantum leap in the number of applications and awards just after O was elected.”
 
“they aren't skyrocketing”
Thomas Sutrina Added Dec 1, 2018 - 1:22pm
George N Romey Added Nov 29, 2018 - 11:46am hit the nail on the head.  Short and sweet.   
 
The graph show a plateau but not dates to when that occurred.  Two options that I can think of.  The demographics of people falling into the no-man-zone has flattened out.  Or the demand for jobs due to Trump cutting regulations barriers and giving tax breaks have resulted in older workers obtaining jobs that use their skills.  Can you fill us in.
 
(I am one of them by being laid off due to closure of engineering for the product in America,  Eureka upright vacuum cleaners is a product it appears that Electrolux Sweden engineering and management chose to discontinue.)   
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 2:49pm
"(I am one of them by being laid off due to closure of engineering for the product in America,  Eureka upright vacuum cleaners is a product it appears that Electrolux Sweden engineering and management chose to discontinue.)"
 
That sucks.  Bet you've heard that before.  Sorry to hear that you were laid off.  Don't mean to make light of it, but I couldn't resist.
 
"The graph show a plateau but not dates to when that occurred.  Two options that I can think of.  The demographics of people falling into the no-man-zone has flattened out.  Or the demand for jobs due to Trump cutting regulations barriers and giving tax breaks have resulted in older workers obtaining jobs that use their skills.  Can you fill us in.
 
Below the graph, you will see a link to the data there and put here for your convenience.  I did note dates in the article.
Leroy Added Dec 1, 2018 - 10:08pm
WSU, I neglected to address a couple of your comments.
 
"Most people are denied even with an attorney, I think its like 65%."
 
The sites I have read say that attorneys don't add anything for the application and the reconsideration.  They earn their keep at the hearing level and above.  
 

"Also there is NO WAY that over 40% of  the population is on disability."
 
I don't know where the 40% figure comes from, but I did find out that there are 61,903,360 people receiving benefits from the social security administration, be they retired workers and their dependents, survivors, or those on disability and their dependents.  That's a lot of people receiving benefits.  Another interesting statistic is that those on disability are more likely to live in poverty. 
Leroy Added Dec 2, 2018 - 12:32pm
Johnny, there is no contradiction.  There was a quantum leap in the number of awards just after O was elected, which also coincided with an economic downturn.  Yes, there was a leap, but it was small in comparison to those already on disability.  Without that leap, the decline in the number on disability would have started earlier as people died or otherwise left the ranks of the disabled.  Think of it as a large lake.  Some water is discharged through the dam.  If the amount of water coming in is the same as the water being discharged, the level remains about the same over time.  If there is more water coming in than discharged, the lake level rises.  A few heavy rainstorms have little effect on the level of the lake.  Likewise, the temporary increases in disability applications have little effect on the overall numbers.  An aging population and growing workforce have a direct effect.  They can be offset by tweaking the award rate and discharging recipients to keep it from rising precipitously.
Tamara Wilhite Added Dec 2, 2018 - 6:25pm
Several reasons:
* Many in the Great Recession moved from long term unemployment to SSDI to keep money coming in.
* The growth of "learning disability" diagnoses by schools to make up for kids below grade level and give parents more resources gives them an instant on-ramp to SSDI as adults.
* You can claim a variety of modest mental illnesses and get welfare without all the checks AND qualify for medical marijuana.
Leroy Added Dec 2, 2018 - 8:06pm
Tamara, there was a definite change in the rate of those going on disability starting with the Great Recession.
 
It might surprise you that mental disorder claims percentage has been on the decline for over a decade.  I suspect it will increase as the millennials get older.  
 
In fact, the rate of impairment of all categories has held steady or declined over the last decade with the exception of musculoskeletal disorders.  The rate of these impairments has been on the increase since prior to 1996.  With the focus on safety, one would think that these impairments along with injuries would have declined significantly.  Since 1996, injuries have declined only a half of a percent, while musculoskeletal disorders have increased by 10%.
 
The leading impairment of mental disorders is mood disorders at 14%.  Seems as the older my colleagues get, the moodier they become :)  Mood disorders would seem to be easy to fake.
Tamara Wilhite Added Dec 2, 2018 - 9:25pm
Then there's the fact that depression and "chronic pain" are nearly indistinguishable among the dispossessed.
 
If you have a sense of purpose, productive work, and proud of yourself, that back pain, arthritis and so forth aren't disabling. When you have nothing else but the suffering, it is now major. And a source of cash flow.
 
Troll Hunter Added Dec 3, 2018 - 12:09am
Tamara, I would like to clarify a few things from my past work history as an SSDI claims examiner and as a real person who works in America.  
You wrote:
 
* Many in the Great Recession moved from long term unemployment to SSDI to keep money coming in.
* The growth of "learning disability" diagnoses by schools to make up for kids below grade level and give parents more resources gives them an instant on-ramp to SSDI as adults.
* You can claim a variety of modest mental illnesses and get welfare without all the checks AND qualify for medical marijuana.
 
As to your first star, There is no such thing a "long term unemployment".  It lasts a year or so depending upon your situation.  And yes, many folks did decide to file for SSDI during that time or other times.  Why not?  If you qualify, you qualify.  
 
As to your second star, there are many children with learning disabilities who don't get jack shit when they are older because they can literally press a button on a McDonalds cash register.  There are, though,  literal retards working at those fast food places, and they are retarded enough (IQ <75) to get disability.  And they are allowed to work a bit.  Just about all SSDI recipients are allowed to work some, it doesn't mean you can't work at al, whether you want to or not.
 
As to your third star, medical weed has nothing to do with SSDI, as far as I know now.
 
 
Leroy Added Dec 3, 2018 - 9:21am
What most people don't realize is that you can work your whole life at a major corporation and then have a car accident, heart attack, or even a work injury and lose your job.  If you are young, you can re-tool yourself once you recover.  Most major companies have termination policies.  If you are unable to report to work unrestricted for any reason for a defined period of time--even if you were injured on company property and it was the fault of the company, you can be terminated.  I know the policies of two local international companies.  One allows twelve weeks; the other, one year.  If you are considered essential personnel, you can be terminated immediately.  Now, imagine that you have worked for the company for thirty or forty years.  How marketable are your skills?  In my former company, we continued to use ancient technology well after our peers moved on to the latest and greatest.  We had the technical expertise to do so.  How marketable are 8080 technology and PL/M programming today?   Yeah.  One could learn a new programming language in a year or two, but if you are in your late fifties or early sixties, the re-education would likely never pay off.  I can understand why the SSA gives greater consideration to those 55 and over.  I suppose one could become a Walmart greeter if one had a strong work ethic, but that would be a difficult pill for many to swallow.  You have "insurance".  Use it if you need it.
Kristen Foley Added Dec 3, 2018 - 2:46pm
Read this link for a comprehensive analysis on how Americans are gaming the disability system and why it’s growing at an alarming rate. 
Tamara Wilhite Added Dec 3, 2018 - 7:22pm
 

Kristen Foley Excellent resource.
Leroy Added Dec 3, 2018 - 8:49pm
"Read this target="_blank">link for a comprehensive analysis on how Americans are gaming the disability system and why it’s growing at an alarming rate."
 
Thanks for the link, Kristen.  It was an interesting article.  It's also dated.  At the time of publication, the number of people on disability neared its peak and then declined.  To say that it IS GROWING at an alarming rate is not correct.  You might say that it WAS GROWING at an alarming rate.  If you compare the growth to the growth in retired workers, it isn't that alarming.
 
Mental disorders have been on the decline and are lower than they were in 1996.  Musculoskeletal disorders have been increasing at a steady 0.5% each year.  I am puzzled by that figure.  It's essentially back and joint pain.  We are more susceptible as we age and the retirement was increased; nevertheless, the growth is extraordinary.  Some ten years ago, the worldwide director of the company where I worked at the time declared the goal of NO physical effort.  Shocking goal!  No doubt, other multi-nationals have become more safety conscious and have automated many processes, yet the rates of these impairments have increased.  But, on the other hand, injuries infrequently is the driver of disability.  Maybe it is what we do in our spare time.
 
A lot has been made about the termination rates.  Indeed, although increasing, it is a far cry from what it used to be.  The vast majority of people are terminated when disability switches to retirement.  The next leading cause is death.  Only about 1% of the total is dropped due to medical improvement or substantial employment.
Leroy Added Dec 4, 2018 - 8:46am
This chart says it all.  Clearly, it's the musculoskeletal impairments that is adding disables to the rolls.  That uptrend doesn't appear to be anywhere near to topping out.  The question I have is, "Why?"  Resolving this issue could save billions. 
Kristen Foley Added Dec 4, 2018 - 11:00am
The article is not that dated and the chart you provided also showed rapidly increasing disability payments.  It’s only a short period of time that you can point to where disability payments went down.  It’s a simple fact that as a percent of the population, far more people receive disability today than a decade ago.  Any prior decade for that matter.  Not to mention the fact that what they receive once on disability has only gone up. 
 
As for termination rates being 1% due to medical improvement, I can only laugh.  The reason people come off disability is because they choose to start working.  Just about all of them could sit behind a desk and do something right now.  I recall a story in the media recently where they tracked a bunch of people on disability.  While collecting, some were competing in body building competitions and many others were working under the table.
Leroy Added Dec 4, 2018 - 11:32am
I don't argue, Kristen, that it has increased over time.  But it isn't skyrocketing either.  In fact, it is going down.  If your article is correct, it will continue to go down with the drop in the unemployment rate.  It is fairer to compare those on disability with the number of workers.  The award rate is about where it was in 1991.  The change--some say 90%--is due to demographics and the rise in the retirement age.
 
You are right; compared to workers, there is a higher percentage on disability.  Again, it is mostly due to demographics and the rise of the retirement age.
 
"As for termination rates being 1% due to medical improvement, I can only laugh."
 
It's less than that.  That figure includes those that are able to make a living while disabled.  The figure is closer to 0.4% who medically improve.  I gave an example on another post of the chief of police going on disability at the age of 47 thereabouts for bad knees from standing on his feet too much.  He continued to drive his big ol' Harley.  His mother was a Walmart greeter.  She used to give me the scoop.  She told me one day, "He always said he was going to get out early and he did."
 
Don't take my defense of disability as an approval of it.  I don't believe that social security or disability are rightful obligations of the government.  However, we pay for those and we shouldn't be shy about using them, especially those who disagree.  Neither my father nor I believed in the government housing program, but, by golly, we sure took advantage of it, building ten housing per acre of land.  SSDI is described as an insurance program.  If it were a private company, we would be complaining about how difficult it is to get benefits.
Leroy Added Dec 4, 2018 - 11:34am
These proposed changes might interest you.  They will likely go into effect in 2019.  Unfortunately, the comment period is over.  If the link does not work, I can post another way to get to it.
Kristen Foley Added Dec 4, 2018 - 3:16pm
I know you think it hasn’t grown, but the article I provided says it grew at “an alarming pace” and in this article, published by NPR, they describe it as having “skyrocketed.”  In light of all these reputable sources (I could easily find many more), barring a little movement downwards very recently, you’re the only person I know making the argument disability didn’t rise dramatically.   
 
As for your argument about the retirement age rising and demographics, I doubt it has much to do with disability claims.  Keep in mind, the retirement age is rising by only 2 years (65 to 67), an increase of only 3.1%.  People can still file to receive Social Security at age 62.  Even if your retirement age argument had merit, isn’t it an argument for why disability would be rising, you’re making the argument it’s not. 
 
As for your link to an article on proposed changes to disability, why is this a problem that is in need of change?  According to you, disability is not on the rise, so you should be happy with the status quo. 
Leroy Added Dec 4, 2018 - 8:34pm
Kristen, I don't argue that it hasn't grown.  It has grown rapidly, but so have aging baby boomers.  The number of workers has grown.  There are more women in the workforce.  All of these contribute to the growth.  What I am saying is that there is nothing astonishing about the growth.  Most of it can be explained.  Again, your link is to a five-year-old article.  The article inaccurately claims that 14 million were on disability.  It has never been that high.  It was a little over 12 million, including everyone on disability.  Makes me wonder about the source.  Perhaps they are including SSI, which isn't part of disability.  I also don't argue that social security hasn't "skyrocketed" more than disability.  Its rolls continue to swell.  The two have some relationship.
 
In this article, there is a chart that explains the growth in those on disability between 1997 and 2007.  Yes.  It is old.  I have already linked to the document above to how this was calculated.  It was based not on a reporter's story but on a scientific study.  It was found that 90% of the increase could be attributed to aging baby boomers and women entering the workforce in greater numbers.  A lot could have happened between 2007 and the present, but I wager is it much the same. 
 
They raised the retirement age for a reason.  It is wasn't significant, they wouldn't have done it.  The older the people are, the more likely they will end up on disability prior to full retirement age.  If it was enough to affect retirement, then it is enough to affect disability.  There is no contradiction as I readily agree that disability was rising and I give a reason for that.  It is now declining. We can attribute some of it to an improving economy.  It is a fact today that the overwhelming reason for terminating disability is because the beneficiary hits full retirement age and it converted to retirement.  We have this massive number of baby boomers starting to retire.  They are also going on disability prior to retirement in greater numbers.  And now, many of them are starting to roll off disability.  Retirement numbers continue to swell.  In 2016, the number of terminations due to retirement was about a half million, not a small number.
 
As I pointed out earlier, most impairments are remaining steady or decreasing.  Only musculoskeletal impairments continue to climb at an ever-increasing rate.  If it wasn't for this, the number on disability would be declining more rapidly.  It is in everyone's best interest that only the ones in need receive disability.  It's like saying we shouldn't focus on heart disease because it is declining.  It is still the leading cause of death.  Likewise, we should focus on helping those with musculoskeletal impairments so that they can avoid having to choose disability.  And, the government should do it due diligence to ensure that each claimant has tried everything medically possible to avoid disability.  Makes sense to me.  Why do you not agree?
Kristen Foley Added Dec 5, 2018 - 10:41am
Women entered the workforce long ago, the rise in disability happened recently. As for the argument aging baby boomers causing the rise in disability, baby boomers are collecting Social Security, not disability.  It was nice debating but I think there is no better word to describe the rise in disability than “astonishing.”  It would appear we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. 
Leroy Added Dec 5, 2018 - 7:50pm
Kristen, thanks for much for the debate!
Dale Ruff Added Dec 10, 2018 - 12:43pm
"...a closer look at the evidence shows that SSDI benefits have become, if anything, less generous. Moreover, even research cited by critics shows SSDI receipt has a negligible impact on work effort because few applicants, including marginal applicants who were denied benefits, are able to earn a living afterward. Meanwhile, there are good explanations for the increase in the share of beneficiaries suffering from musculoskeletal disorders, including an aging population, rising obesity rates, and fewer workers able to retire early when their health deteriorates."https://www.epi.org/blog/are-disability-rates-increasing/
Dale Ruff Added Dec 10, 2018 - 12:46pm
Kristen, you say raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 is only 3%, but you ignore that 1) it means you pay into Social Security for 2 more years and 2) that you collect for  nearly 20%  less of our remaining years...so the net effect is you pay in more and collect 20% less.
 
Meanwhile, with austerity for our most vulnerable population,  the rich are getting huge tax breaks to be paid for by  making the elderly pay more for less.