New Jersey readers of this blog might be aware of the recent rancor in Congress and in the news regarding disability benefits. Critics allege that Social Security disability insurance beneficiaries depend too heavily on the government for handouts and that disability benefits are easy to access.
Anyone who has applied for SSDI knows that the process can be incredibly complicated. Certain disorders that result in severe disability or death are on a list that fast-tracks the application process, but for most applicants, proving that a disability meets the Social Security Administration’s criteria, can take years.
Amid the political debate, the Congressional Budget Office released a study recently that debunks the allegations that disability beneficiaries are looking for a handout. The study finds the population receiving the largest increase in SSDI benefits is made up of baby boomers that are getting older. Between 1996 and 2009, as the baby boomers began to turn 50, the portion of SSDI benefits given to older workers as a whole jumped from 67 to 76 percent.
Younger workers accessed SSDI less during the same period, with the portion of benefits awarded to people between 25 and 44 years old actually decreasing from 31 percent to 22 percent.
The report found that even if nothing else had changed, aging baby boomers would have increased the SSDI rolls. But things did change creating other significant factors that contributed to the increase in SSDI enrollment. Readers of this blog may recall a discussion in February regarding the effect of the recession on disability benefits. Fewer jobs for everyone mean fewer jobs for disabled individuals as well. The CBO study determined that people who would qualify for disability insurance sometimes choose to work when jobs are easy to find.
Another factor cited by the CBO is the fact that women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers in the last four decades, which means that there is now a much larger population of working people who potentially might develop a disability.
The CBO study acknowledges the complexity of covering disability in the United States and provides options that lawmakers could consider to address the looming shortfall in SSDI funding. They include such moves as cutting benefits or raising taxes.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Social Security Disability Enrollment Rising Due To Demographic Trends, Not Obama ‘Slavery’ Plot: CBO,” Arthur Delaney and Michael McAuliff, July 17, 2012