Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the state of the economy is, has been, and will continue to be, impacting the Social Security Disability benefit program (amongst other things). On the other hand, perhaps it does. Regardless, the numbers are quite staggering, and could undoubtedly have an affect on individuals applying for disability in the future.
A recent article in the Washington Post examined a 21 percent increase in disability application and discussed how the growth would not only add to administrative backlog, but may also impact the program's fiscal stability. The 21 percent increase in application to the program occurred from 2008 to 2009, at the point in which the economy was facing serious trouble. That amount of growth was the sharpest in the 54-year history of the program, if that's any indication as to how severe it was.
Many anticipated the number of individuals taking part in the program would be growing anyways, as we waited for the growing age of the baby-boom population to expand. However, policymakers suspect "the current surge has less to do with any worsening in the health of the workforce than with the poor health of the economy."
The Social Security Administration (SSA) believes that their process for screening those with alleged disability allows them to screen out those who may be trying to obtain benefits without having a legitimate disability. However, when jobs begin to become few and far between, the SSA acknowledges that workers who might have otherwise struggled through their impairments will now try to secure disability benefits themselves.
But what affect will all of this have on you? The simplest answer is that the influx of all of the new applications is slowing the regular disability approval time. When the disability approval time can already extend beyond two years when factoring in appeals of unfavorable decisions, the increased wait time is something no one would look forward to. Despite having increased their staff, the SSA has continued to struggle to keep up with the workload.
Unfortunately, these issues are not predicted to end anytime in the near future. The overwhelming amount of new applicants is placing an unsustainable financial burden on the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. However, the SSA is taking measures in an attempt to make this less of a hardship on everyone. As we blogged yesterday, new work incentives and the Ticket to Work program have been created. The hope is that, with changed incentives to reward work, the drain on the fund will be lessened.