Number of US workers claiming Social Security Disability Insurance climbs 22% in 5 years

Submitted by Chris on Thu, 05/17/2012 - 09:36

It’s a sign of the times. With unemployment continuing to hover dangerously close to 10%, more people are turning to Social Security disability claims in hopes of securing some semblance of a livable income. While some might cry foul, suggesting that some of these people are not truly disabled, that shows a lack of understanding regarding how unemployment rates and disability interact with each other.

How High Unemployment Affects Disability Claims

Social Security disability is only granted if a claimant is deemed to have a medically verifiable condition which makes it impossible for him or her to continue working at any job which is available anywhere in the country for which they are qualified and/or could reasonably be trained. When there are fewer jobs available in the country, it stands to reason that there are fewer jobs for which a claimant may be qualified.

Of course, disability claims are not judged predominantly on the availability of employment. They are judged primarily on the medical evidence presented. However, a claimant’s work history is considered. If there is no available work in any field the claimant has worked in previously, that does factor in to the SSA’s decision to grant or deny SSDI, SSI, and other disability benefits.

Not convinced that high unemployment and disability claims are inter-related? The government is. As a matter of fact, one of the major reasons cited for extending unemployment benefits was the concern that many who lost unemployment benefits would simply make disability claims. Once a worker is approved for SSDI or SSI, he usually doesn’t re-enter the workforce. This puts a double hit on government resources because it eliminates the tax revenue the worker would have gone back to work and potentially adds one more person to the SSDI payroll.

An Unprecedented Rise in Claims and Its Effects

The rise in disability claims over the past five years in unprecedented. At the time of this writing, 5.3% of working age Americans are collecting SSDI benefits. That’s a record high, representing over 8.7 million people.

These numbers present problems for an already over-strapped SSA budget. As it stands, disability funds are only slated to last three more years. We expect, of course, that Congress will do something at some point to avert a disaster. What that will look like remains to be seen.

In addition to the fact that the sheer number of claims approved is having a serious impact on the SSA’s budget, it’s important to realize that the number of claims being processed can also have a negative impact on how quickly legitimate claims are processed. The SSA has a limited amount of manpower to deal with disability claims. More claims mean longer waits at each step of the process.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to make sure that your claim is filed correctly and that the evidence you present is the kind of evidence the SSA is looking for. If you are filing a disability claim these days, do yourself a favor and consult a Social Security disability lawyer first. They can often save you lots of time while improving your chances of being approved.

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