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Drawing the right conclusions from SSD data: Part I

Drawing the right conclusions from SSD data: Part I

| Jun 5, 2014 | Social Security Disability |

The American author Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) is often credited with saying: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Statistics can be very useful and persuasive, but they are also very easy to misinterpret and manipulate.

In our last post, we wrote about a study of Social Security Disability Insurance statistics showing that the number of female SSD recipients has been growing steadily since about 2000 (with the trend starting as far back as the 1970s). While there is no reason to doubt the numbers themselves, it is worth mentioning that the supposedly non-partisan group that released the report drew some very unfounded conclusions about what the numbers actually mean. This week, we’d like to address some of those.

The report was released by the National Center for Policy Analysis, which says its goal is to “develop and promote private, free-market alternatives to government regulation and control.” Based on the group’s stated goal and comments made by Pamela Villarreal, the study’s author, it seems logical to conclude that the NCPA wants to do away with Social Security in favor of private-sector solutions. As such, the conclusions Villarreal draws from the data are heavily biased and don’t necessarily reflect an understanding of the difficulties faced by SSDI applicants and recipients.

Villarreal notes that in addition to the overall growth in female SSD recipients, there has also been considerable growth in the number of relatively young women receiving disability benefits. She offers several theories for why this might be, including a suggestion that women are using SSD as a “bridge to retirement.” She also claims that there may be an increasing number of false claims because some people “feel the need to go on disability for economic hardship or just a slight ailment they might have.”

There are several incorrect assumptions that need to be addressed here. First of all, SSD is not an easy alternative to looking for work. It is usually much more difficult (and time-consuming) to go through the application and appeals process than it is to fill out job applications. It is highly unlikely that many who are physically able to work are pursuing SSD benefits as a way to avoid job hunting.

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

Source: Newsmax.com, “Study: Record Number of Women Receiving Disability Payments,” Andrea Billups, May 29, 2014