The question has come up countless times in recent years: Why are so many more people applying for Social Security disability benefits than in years past? A recent study shows that it’s a number of factors, including an aging baby boomer population and the number of women who have entered the workforce.
The study, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also found that the poor economy in recent years drove many to apply for benefits, and a change in the law in the 1980s has also helped the number spike.
That law, which was enacted during the Reagan administration, allowed more people with musculoskeletal problems and mental disorders to be eligible for benefits. People with those issues accounted for 38 percent of those enrolled in the SSDI program in 1990. Twenty years later, that number had risen to 54 percent.
The aging baby boomer population also is a big factor: The share of disabled worker benefits being paid to older workers went from 67 percent to 76 percent in a 13-year span. In addition, many more women have entered the workforce since 1970, making much more of the population eligible for disability benefits.
All of these factors are counter to what some members of Congress have reportedly claimed, including that Americans have a growing dependence on the government.
According to the Social Security Administration, the number of disabled has risen to about 8.6 million in 2011. The average disability payment comes to about $1,111.
Source: Huffington Post, “Social Security disability enrollment rising due to demographic trends, not Obama ‘slavery’ plot: CBO,” Michael McAuliff, July 17, 2012
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