In recent years, growth in the U.S. economy has been anemic at best. Over 7 million jobs have disappeared and the end of the recession is not in sight. As more workers are being laid off and fewer companies are hiring, workers are turning to other sources to replace their lost income, such as unemployment and disability benefits.
Social Security disability claims have risen greatly in the last three years. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), 2.6 million claims were filed in 2008 and in 2011, 3.16 million claims have already been filed. In one state, the number of claims went from 86,973 in 2008 to 119,946 in 2011. These increases are in contrast to the relative static changes in previous years. Andrew Houtenville, Associate Professor of Economics and Research Director of the Institute of Disability at the University of New Hampshire, states that, "This is nothing new. You always see a rise in [disability] claims during recessions."
The graying of the American population also contributes greatly to the increase of disability claims and resulting backlogs. When baby boomers leave the work force due to injury or illness, they often file disability claims. They know their rights.
States and the SSA already were behind in processing applications before the economy tumbled. Now with the rise in claims, the agencies are having a very difficult time processing new applications and the backlog is growing exponentially. Currently, the wait from initial application to receiving benefits can be up to two years.
Disability claims are granted for medical conditions that are either permanent or that will exist for at least 12 months. Obtaining disability benefits is not easy and most applicants are actually denied at first. The claims process, which includes an appeal process, is lengthy and arduous.
The average disability claim benefit is $1,070 per month - hardly like winning the lottery. But for those who need a solution to their financial problems caused by their inability to work, applying for and receiving disability benefits is a huge relief. And people who might have tried to find jobs that accommodated their disabilities during robust economic times have been unsuccessful, making SSD their only choice and adding to the number of disability applications.
Like other government resources, SSD benefits are being stretched by bad economic times. This makes it important for applicants to understand the challenges they may face and obtain help from an advocate who understands the Social Security Disability system thoroughly.