With more Americans filing for or receiving disability benefits, peanut gallery commentators and grandstanding politicians have been very busy accusing the Social Security Administration of running a sham system that routinely rubber stamps bogus claims and President Obama of promoting a culture of dependency.
Before we get to the latest report debunking these and other criticisms, let’s start with some facts that Oregon residents who’ve applied for disability benefits or appealed a denied disability claim already know.
First, the SSA approves claims for disability benefits only after applicants have proven that they have a severe physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) expected to prevent them from working for at least one year. This not only requires a great deal of detailed medical evidence but in most cases, also takes a great deal of time. In fact, the majority of applicants have to wait at least a year and a half (while not earning any income) just to get a hearing before an administrative law judge. Finally, the average monthly benefit for successful applicants is $1,111 — a number that is far less than what most earned when they still had the ability to work.
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report that attributes the recent surge in the number of people applying for and receiving disability benefits stems from the combination an aging population, a larger workforce, Reagan-era changes in the law that allowed more people with mental disabilities and musculoskeletal problems to qualify and a lack of available jobs due to a horrible economy.
The nonpartisan study also found that aging Baby Boomers were responsible for the largest percentage of new claims and approvals from 1996 to 2009, and that the share of Social Security Disability benefits going to younger workers decreased from 31 percent to 22 percent over the same time period.
Source: Huffington Post, “Social Security Disability Enrollment Rising Due to Demographic Trends, Not Obama ‘Slavery’ Plot: CBO,” Michael McAuliff, July 17, 2012.