There's a lot of anguished reporting about the skyrocketing number of people on Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, and lots of hand-wringing about what to do about it. There are many theories about why there are so many people applying for and receiving SSD benefits. However, the best one is also one of the most simple: As a nation, we are getting older. That's it, in a nutshell.
Let's break it down. First, as the American population ages, they are more likely to experience disability, especially if they work in physically demanding jobs. When you are older, you just don't recover from injuries as easily, and the consequences of a lifetime of lifting boxes or standing on an assembly line finally catch up with you.
Second, Congress has raised the retirement age, in part to save the other big part of Social Security - Old Age Pensions. What that means is that fully five percent of people receiving SSD would be retired if the full retirement age had not changed.
Third, many more women qualify for SSD benefits than was the case 25 or 30 years ago. And that's because of another demographic shift - there are far more women in the work force, and they, too, are getting older.
The good news about this is that it's temporary. The bulge of aging workers is going to get smaller - it's about as big as its ever going to be, according to experts. It is still a problem, but it will get better, not worse.
The bad news is that it's going to be a problem for a while longer and it will take some time for the number of older people currently on SSD to transfer onto Social Security pensions.
Whatever your age, don't let those who predict the collapse of SSD frighten you. If you are disabled and can no longer work and are eligible for disability benefits, get help now. Do what so many others have done: Call Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability Advocates. They will know what to do.
Source: Washington Post, "The simple, boring reason why disability insurance has exploded," by Brad Plumer, Apr. 1, 2013.