Disability Rolls Increase in Past Years

April 22, 2012

A recent report reflects that a record number of workers and their dependents have began receiving federal disability checks over the past four years.  Causes are varied and include the fact that the rules loosened following some changes by Congress in 1984.  However, more women have entered the workforce, making them eligible for disability.  Research suggests that the aging of the population has contributed only modestly to the program’s growth.

But the big factor in the recent surge is the slow pace of the economic recovery after the severe recession. That has kept the unemployment rate above 8% and created an enormous pool of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers. The number of applications last year was up 24% compared with 2008, Social Security Administration data show.

When opportunities for employment are plentiful, some people who could quality for (disability insurance) benefits find working more attractive … when employment opportunities are scarce, some of these people participate in the disability program instead.

What reports overlook is the fact that disability is a safety net and the fact that more Americans are taking advantage of the program reflects that more Americans are in need of this safety net during period of economic distress.  Americans should be thankful for the Social Security Disability system.


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