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Number of baby boomer SSDI applicants may skyrocket

Published on May 31st, 2012

Most members of the baby boomer generation are at least 50 years old, meaning they are at an age where disability is an increasingly likely possibility. Many of them are not quite at retirement age, and that means that many of them may first file for disability benefits.

They aren’t the only ones applying for benefits. The number of Americans applying for Social Security disability benefits has increased by a staggering 30 percent since 2007. The number of people actually receiving benefits is up 23 percent.

It’s no coincidence that there was a spike in applications just as the recession was beginning. When people have low-paying jobs or no jobs at all, desperation often drives them to apply for disability benefits when there are simply no other options.

Interestingly, many more Americans are receiving benefits than they were two decades ago. But compared to jobs back then, today’s positions are for the most part less physically demanding. Health care has also improved, which may make one think that fewer people would have work-impairing disabilities. However, more Americans are obese, and weight problems can lead to other health issues.

Overall, the SSDI program, which has been around since Eisenhower was president, cost about $132 billion last year, which, a recent report says, is more than the combined budgets of several programs, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice. The average monthly disability payment is $1,111.

Source: Washington Post, “Social Security disability trust fund projected to run out of cash by 2016,” Brian Faler, May 30, 2012

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