We all know that things are tough all around in the present economy. Unemployment has risen to and stayed at levels unheard of since the Great Depression. It would appear that the unemployment problem may be even worse than the numbers would seem to indicate.
As unemployment benefits come close to running out, many turn to disability claims in an attempt to maintain income. Social Security disability claims of all types are on the rise. Mental illness claims are particularly high compared to the number of claims filed before the current recession.
Prior to the recession, mental illness accounted for 33% of Social Security Disability claims. Today, that number has risen to a staggering 43%. These numbers are rising across all demographics, but are climbing especially fast amongst former white collar workers in their mid-40s and older.
The drain on our country’s Social Security funds is so severe that we are expected to run completely out of reserve funds by 2018.
Another problem caused by the increasing number of Social Security disability claims is that it skews the unemployment statistics. It does this by removing potential workers from amongst the numbers of those who are seeking employment. With fewer people seeking unemployment, it causes the apparent percentage of unemployed workers to drop. This results in statistics that mirror an economic recovery when in fact all that has happened is that many people have moved from seeking work to seeking Social Security disability benefits.
Some pundits theorize that there genuinely is an increase in mental illness as a result of the recession. This is certainly plausible, as unemployment increases stress dramatically, and stress can lead to mental and emotional illness and disability.
Most who are approved for Social Security disability benefits will never re-enter the work force. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has made strides towards developing programs which allow Social Security disability recipients to attempt to re-enter the workforce without endangering their ability to collect disability benefits. Still, the fact remains that most of who have gone through the long process of being approved for Social Security disability are nervous about doing anything which would require them to start the whole process over.
Social Security Disability programs were never intended to be an extension of unemployment benefits. The purpose of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other Social Security disability programs is intended to serve as a financial safety net for those who are completely unable to perform any kind of work. While medically verifiable mental disabilities can and often do qualify a person for Social Security Disability, the Social Security system is not well equipped to handle a significant influx of mental disability claims.
That doesn’t minimize the seriousness of depression or other mental conditions. There is no doubt they can be debilitating.
If you think you may qualify for Social Security disability based on a mental or emotional condition, it is important that you seek medical treatment and that you follow all of your doctor’s instructions. You should also consider consulting a Social Security disability lawyer before filing a claim (or continuing with your claim if you have already filed). This is especially important with claims involving mental illness, because it’s important that solid medical documentation backs up your claim in terms that the SSA will accept.