Why Are Disability Claims Growing And Social Security Funding Shrinking?

It’s no secret that the number of people applying for Social Security disability benefits has been rising. We can see signs of this rise through the problems the Social Security Administration (SSA) is having as it tries to fund Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). Handling these problems has left lawmakers befuddled, but a new study may have found some answers.

Are Disability Claims Growing Out of Control?

In 2015, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which took money out of the Social Security retirement fund to save the disability fund. This prompted lawmakers to scrutinize how SSDI lost so much money. They found part of the answer by looking at how many people were enrolled in the program.

In 1990, only 2.5 percent of the working-age population was enrolled in SSDI, but in 2015 that percentage increased to 5.2. The disability fund was incapable of handling the expansion. This is a serious concern considering that waitlists for evaluation are getting longer, and federal funding is getting tighter. So, why were these numbers increasing?

Many experts pointed to the increased number of women joining the workforce and the higher population of workers aging out of their jobs, but one researcher has another reason. David Autor—an economist from MIT—says the increase is due to thinning job prospects. He looked at the Appalachia region, where SSDI enrollment rates are highest, and made a discovery.

How Did the Economy Affect SSDI Enrollment?

Many of the employers in the Appalachia area had moved jobs from the U.S. to China and Mexico. This change in the economy reduced the amount of nonlabor-intensive positions available. That means that as people aged out of labor-intensive jobs, there were no desk jobs to be had. That may have sent them to the SSDI rolls early, which left them unable to work the jobs available where they lived.

Could this be a contributing factor to SSDI’s budget problems? Is there solution on the horizon? Stick with your Tulsa disability attorneys as we monitor the situation. You can also tell us what you think by visiting our Twitter and Facebook pages.


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