Busting Disability Myths

October 28, 2015

The New York Times recently posted a great column about the myths of Social Security Disability.  Excerpted in part to say:

It is not easy to go on disability. About 60 percent of applicants for disability benefits are turned away.

In fact, it can be very hard to qualify for disability. Of the nearly 40 percent of applicants who are accepted, more than half are initially rejected and have undergone additional scrutiny of their claims before receiving any benefits.

It is not easy to fake a disability. People who worry about fraud tend to worry that some disabilities, including back problems and depression, are not easy to see. That doesn’t mean they are being faked. Besides, many physical disorders – which are the main cause of disability for the vast majority of people – are plainly visible. Similarly, many mental disorders that lead to disability are clearly debilitating for their sufferers, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and disorders associated with brain disease or damage.

If people on disability were faking it, they wouldn’t have such high death rates. People on disability are three to six times more likely to die than people in their age group who are not on disability.

Disability claims are not skyrocketing. Rather, the population most likely to go on disability, those aged 50 to 64, is growing. The potential disability population is also larger now than in the past because today’s older women are more likely to have worked enough to qualify for disability than in earlier generations. Demographic pressures have already begun to subside. Adjusted for demographic factors, the share of workers on disability has gone from slightly below 4 percent in 2000 to slightly above 4 percent in 2014.

A person entering the work force today has a one in three chance of dying or qualifying for disability before retirement age. The possibility of fraud does not diminish the odds of upstanding citizens needing help. The disability system deserves everyone’s support.

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