Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Disability Claims and Awards in Decline

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, from 2011 to 2102, it's reported that there were actually less Social Security disability claims, less awards and more SSDI terminations. By the end of 2012, total disabled workers numbered 8.8 million --- but the NPR consistently reports 14 million.

Key Findings:

  • By the end of George W. Bush's term in 2008 there were 7,427,203 disabled Americans on SSDI --- and by the end of 2012 there were 8,827,795 receiving monthly SSDI benefits.
  • Over the span of four years during Obama's first term as President (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012) there was a net gain of 1,400,592 Americans on SSDI (for an average net gain of 350,148 people per year added to the SSDI rolls.)
  • In the aftermath of the Great Recession, from 2011 to 2102, there were actually less Social Security disability claims, less awards and more terminations.
  • Claims / Awards / Terminations

    • Claims (applications) for Social Security disability benefits decreased from 2,878,920 in 2011 to 2,820,812 in 2012 (a decrease of 58,108 for claims)
    • Awards also decreased from 1,025,003 in 2011 to 979,973 in 2012 (a decrease of 45,030 awards).
    • Terminations for SSDI increased (meaning less receiving SSDI benefits) from 656,902 in 2011 to 726,432 in 2012. --- There were 69,530 more terminations last year than the year before.
  • From 2011 to 2012 the net number of disabled workers receiving disability benefits rose by only 251,728
  • By the end of 2012, total disabled workers numbered 8.8 million and had an average monthly benefit of $1,130.34
  • The NPR has falsely and consistently reported that there are 14.0 million disabled workers
  • 50% of disability beneficiaries were between the ages of 56 and 66

The Media on the Disability Numbers

Dan Quayle (Chairman at Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that owns Bushmaster Firearms) was the first president of the NPR. Today Gary Evan Knell is the president and CEO of the NPR, who may or may not be personally responsible for waging NPR's war on disabled Americans --- possibly in an attempt to influence pubic opinion by consistently reporting false statistics and skewed data regarding SSDI beneficiaries. This is something we may have once expected from the Republican Party, those who passed a bill in Congress to de-fund the NPR. But now it appears that the NPR and the GOP are mutual friends, and they also seem to have a common enemy --- disabled American workers.

The NPR has repeatedly reported that there are 14 million disabled workers.

  • The NPR reported in this article: "Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government."
  • The NPR reported in this article: "The number of workers on disability has been doubling every 15 years or so. It has now reached that 14 million number."
  • The NPR reported in this article: "These 14 million Americans don't have jobs, but they don't show up in any of the unemployment measures that we use. They receive federal assistance, but are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net."
  • The NPR reported in this article: "There are now 14 million people receiving benefits from the federal government because their disabilities make it hard for them to work."

At the Daily Kos Jennifer Kates writes a couple of comprehensive articles about the NPR's war on the disabled, about Social Security disability and the politics behind it.

Last year on Fox News even Bill O'Reilly (who hates all government entitlement programs) got the actual number right: "That number is a record 8,733,000 workers on disability." But then he goes on to say, "So why has the disability rate increased more than 100 percent? I'll tell you why. It's a con. It's easy to put in a bogus disability claim." But Mister O'Reilly doesn't differentiate between "claims" and actual "awards".

At the end of last year, just after O'Reilly reported on this, the Social Security Administration later reported that there were 8,827,795 --- Source: SSA (choose "disabled workers"). But the NPR would rather report 14 million. Why?

But even if one were to give the NPR the benefit of the doubt --- besides counting JUST disabled workers, if one were also to include disabled widows(ers), spouses of disabled workers and children of disabled workers, the total number would still be less than 14 million --- it would be 11,146,368.

And even if there were 14 million disabled Americans, so what. Shouldn't they all be compensated after becoming disabled and can no longer work? Shouldn't the unemployed also receive jobless benefits? Shouldn't the poor also receive food stamps and Medicaid? Shouldn't the elderly also receive Medicare and Social Security? If not, then what makes America any different than any other despotic country?

With the offshoring of jobs overseas, the millions who are still long-term unemployed, depressed wages, the ever increasing cost of living, an ever rising gap in wealth disparity and income inequality, ever more guestworker visas being implemented to import more foreign workers, increasing automation and robotics displacing ever more workers, and multi-billionaires like Charles Koch trying the eliminate the minimum wage, how are millions of ordinary Americans (the masses) expected to survive?

As it is now, according to the Social Security Administration, 50% of all U.S. wage earners (who filed a W-4 with an employer and paid FICA taxes) earned $26,965 a year or LESS. Those receiving disability benefits averaged only $13,564 a year.

Aren't the disabled (and the elderly) allowed to live? Especially older workers and those who worked all their lives in labor-intensive jobs to help make people like the Koch brothers so rich. 50% of those receiving SSDI are between the ages of 56 and 66 --- so they are already nearing early or regular retirement age...those who just couldn't manage to make it in the home stretch of their working careers.

JUST for disabled working-aged Americans (those that the NPR and Fox News insinuates are lazy and would rather be on the government dole receiving poverty-level benefits rather than working), the number is 8,827,795 for those keeping score.

See all the data and charts further below from the Social Security Administration with direct links to sources.

Disability, Unemployment Benefits, Older Workers and Jobs

A Congressional Budget Office study says that when opportunities for employment are plentiful, some people who could qualify for disability benefits find working more attractive. Conversely, when employment opportunities are scarce, some of those people participate in the disability program instead. Indeed, applications to the program increased -- during and immediately following the recessions that occurred in the early 1990s, in 2001, and over the past few years --- as did the number of people receiving disability benefits.

Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, acknowledged that when employers are hiring lots of people, disabled people (just like any one else) also finds it easier to land a job

Last year the Wall Street Journal also reported that many desperate Americans may be seeking refuge in the disability program as a last resort after their unemployment insurance and savings run out. But earlier this year, in a new study by Jesse Rothstein (University of California, Berkeley and NBER) found that there was "no indication that expiration of UI benefits causes DI applications."

Last year the Congressional Budget Office also did study on this subject, and according to the Huffington Post, had found that "The rise in America's ranks of disabled stems from an aging population, a surge in women workers, changes in the law in the 1980s and a terrible economy in which disabled people can't find jobs" and that "the biggest jump in the disabled population came from aging Baby Boomers."

Now the Wall Street Journal is acknowledging Jesse Rothstein's study: "The sharp rise in federal disability rolls in recent years has sparked worry that able-bodied workers are using the system to hide from the weak job market. But new research suggests those fears may be overblown."

Even though a study says, "As the U.S. population grows older, the number of years Americans can expect to live with disability from causes such as depression and low back and neck pain has increased."

And that's not even accounting for a Congressional hearing on the long-term unemployed which determined that older workers who were laid off during the Great Recession haven't been offered jobs, and still remain long-term unemployed.

And that doesn't even account for a lack of jobs in general (3.1 unemployed for every job opening). The Wall Street Journal reports that not enough people are quitting their jobs, and that a humming economy usually means a high rate of churn in the work force --- where an employee voluntarily leaves one job for another in search of a higher paying job and new challenges. But that's not happening.

And of the jobs that have been created lately, restaurants and bars have done the bulk of hiring with younger people in part-time low-paying jobs.

Data From the Social Security Administration

Applications (claims) Awards (added) Terminations (subtracted) Total Disabled
2011 2,878,920 1,025,003 656,902 8,576,067
2012 2,820,812 979,973 726,432 8,827,795
Difference 58,108 less 45,030 less 69,530 more 251,728

Social Security Administration - Benefits Paid by Type of Beneficiary for "Disabled worker" for the last 5 years (annual numbers) -- Source: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/ProgData/icp.html

* There was a net gain of 251,728 from 2011 to 2012 who received Social Security disability benefits

End of
Number Average
Dec 2008 7,427,203 $1,063.14
Dec 2009 7,789,113 $1,064.31
Dec 2010 8,204,710 $1,067.79
Dec 2011 8,576,067 $1,110.51
Dec 2012 8,827,795 $1,130.34

Disabled worker beneficiary statistics by calendar year -- Source: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibStat.html

Social Security Disability

For 2012: 2,820,812 applications (claims) -- 979,973 awards (approvals) -- 726,432 terminations (stopped receiving SSDI benefits) = a net gain of 253,541 for 2012.

Claims / Awards / Terminations --- Claims for SS disability decreased from 2,878,920 in 2011 to 2,820,812 in 2012 (and decrease of 58,108 for claims), and actual awards also decreased from 1,025,003 in 2011 to 979,973 in 2012. Terminations also increased (meaning less received SSDI benefits) from 656,902 in 2011 to 726,432 in 2012 (there were 69,530 more terminations). !

  • a) The number of applications is for disabled-worker benefits only and, as such, excludes disabled child's and disabled widow(er)'s benefits. Applications ultimately result in either a denial or award of benefits. These counts include applications that are denied because the individual is not insured for disability benefits.
  • b) Award data are unedited and may contain duplicates.
  • c) The number of terminations is the number of beneficiaries who leave the disability rolls for any reason.

Disabled workers: 8,827,795 Average monthly benefit: $1,130.34 (50% are between the ages of 56 and 66) -- Source: http://www.ssa.gov/oact/ProgData/byage.html

* Disabled workers and dependents: 10,614,398 - Counting dual-entitled beneficiaries - If a beneficiary is entitled to both a primary benefit (as a retired or disabled worker) and another benefit (say a spousal benefit) payable from the same trust fund, then he or she is counted only once in our statistics as a primary beneficiary.

** Also posted at the Daily Kos as Report: Disability Claims and Awards Declining

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