JetPunk Charts

Percent of Americans Receiving Disability Over Time

The percentage of U.S. residents receiving Social Security Disability benefits has risen by a factor of 10 since 1960.

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Notes:
Source: 1, 2
+1
level ∞
Oct 2, 2019
In my opinion, this program is a complete mess. While no doubt there are many people who are deserving of disability benefits, there is a lot of fraud as well. We'd do better to have welfare for the needy that doesn't require one to fake a medical condition.
+11
level 67
Oct 5, 2019
It's a demographic shift. The United States has demographically "developed" from being mostly younger people to mostly older. I've never ever met a disability fraudster, and I'm in the hospital all the time to be with my disabled mother. In any case, you can only get disability payments if you A. don't work B. don't live in a household with a relative who works C. Don't own a home D. are verified by a doctor regularly to be disabled (unless you have a verified chronic condition for a specified amount of time). Also, disability payments are MEASLY. My mother, while being required not to work or live with a working family member (which is why she can't get married to her boyfriend) gets 200 a month if she's lucky. She has had rheumatoid arthritis from the age of eleven. She's lucky to be alive. Yet she is expected to live on less than $3000 a year. That's two-thirds below the poverty line. Disability is NOT bloated. The "mess" is that people like her are denied their dignity.
+1
level 77
Oct 5, 2019
My uncle is a disability fraudster. Has barely worked a day in his life. Leeched off of my grandmother until he was nearly 60 and she was on death's door.

I often hear liberals argue that red state residents are voting against their own interests when they vote against social welfare, because red state residents are disproportionately dependent on such welfare. But I think it's actually because of this that a lot of rural conservatives don't like these programs. They might be shooting themselves in the foot, but they also probably have a cousin or brother or uncle or neighbor that they despise and who is getting food stamps or Medicaid or disability and they're thinking "that no good lazy cousin of mine needs to get off his butt and work for a change, I have to work and so should he."
Conservatives also tend to have less empathy than liberals, are less tolerant and register more disgust and similar feelings. But... there is no doubt abuse of the system.
+1
level ∞
Oct 5, 2019
Average disability payouts were a little bit over $14,000 per year in 2016. Still not much, but way more than $3,000.
+1
level ∞
Oct 5, 2019
I wish I could get the numbers for the working age population. If I had to guess I would say that about 10-20% of the increase can be explained by demographics.
+1
level ∞
Oct 6, 2019
Oh, and by the way, I'm not saying that we should end payments to disabled people. Rather, we should have welfare for people who need it regardless of any disability.
+1
level 61
Oct 7, 2019
Anecdotally, I have done a fair amount of service work in the rural parts of Appalachia and the southeast. I've come across people who are on disability that are definitely getting fraudulently. I've asked some allies down there what the deal is, and they say that a lot of these people have been rendered irrelevant to the workforce by technology and outsourcing. They still have their pride, so they don't want to go on welfare, and claiming a disability offers a socially acceptable reason for not working. There's a big psychological difference between "I can't get a job" and "I am unable to work." I have no idea how this phenomenon tracks on a larger scale, but it's the explanation I was given by someone credible, and it makes more sense than the explanation that people on the Gulf Coast are just disproportionately disabled.
+2
level 69
Oct 5, 2019
For a macro-economical system, it is arguably more efficiant to tolerate a certain amount of fraud, than to implement a bureaucratic and costly system to evaluate everyone applying for benefits. Not to mention that you then farther open the door to the opposite case, public servants denying disabled people the care they need, because they don't entirely fall under the very specific guidelines, that said bureaucracy requires.
+1
level 77
Oct 5, 2019
Agreed. Like Scott Walker in Florida going out of his way to try and kick people off of social welfare programs for failing drug tests. The drug tests he ordered cost more than they were saving by eliminating this aid, and without any benefit to anyone.
+1
level ∞
Oct 5, 2019
In the short term, it makes sense to tolerate fraud. But in the long term it doesn't work, in my opinion. Seeing other people commit fraud and get away with it has a terrible effect on social trust.
+1
level 69
Oct 6, 2019
I guess, it depends on the scale of the problem. There are certainly nuances in how to go about asigning benefits, i.e. it is a huge difference whether the state expects the citizen to prove it's case beyond doubt, or whether it grants more leniantly and investigates, if a fraud is suspected.
When it comes to public trust, I might suspect that this is more reliant on how the media frames it - either as a shocking, nation breaking injustice, or a natural occurence of human society, which can be adressed quite easily. However, I believe the decision for this framing may lay more with specific political viewpoints, than with naturalistic analysis.
+2
level 61
Oct 5, 2019
You gotta see Argentinian stats, from 180k to over two millions during Kirchnerism... Maybe it was because of the war, lol...
+1
level 66
Oct 5, 2019
They may only get partial benefits for whatever reason. It's $771 a month but you can get 2/3 or 1/3. So if they for whatever reason only get 1/3 it would be $260 or so. If you get ssdi you get what you earned while working and that won't go down and in the case of both you can work some and with SSI they take part of the income but SSDI if you make say $500 then even if you work you will still get $500/month. You will also keep Medicare but Medicaid depends on several variables. I make mostly SSDI.
+2
level ∞
Oct 6, 2019
Average payments in 2016 were $1171 per month. Since some people earn less than average, it means that other people earn more.
+2
level ∞
Oct 6, 2019
And I think you've hit on one of the big problems with disability. It discourages people from working since people who work lose part or all of their disability. I'd replace the system with a small payment of maybe $500 per month for anyone who needs it, and that couldn't be taken away unless you made more than $30,000 or so.
+1
level 69
Oct 6, 2019
I thinkt, the idea, that social assistance discourages people from working is not really significant. Here is an interesting article about that issue.

Of course there is a problem in people, who would lose money, if they were employed, but I don't see, how your proposition actually adresses the problem. Investing in disabled people means investing in their autonomy and mobility. Cutting those benefits will in many cases cut their possibilities to work a job in the first place. Being disabled is expensive. Disabled people are getting hired less, even for jobs they might not have a disadvantage in.
There also is a strong connection between poverty and disability in the first place. On the matter of improving the employment rate, it seems more promising to me, to actually invest in infrastructure and jobs specificaly for disabled people.
+2
level 74
Oct 6, 2019
Arguing that fraud is a meaningful explanation of the chart above is not convincing. The population of US residents between 50 and 64 (those most likely to claim disability without having reached retirement age yet) has risen from about 25 million in 1960 to about 60 million today. And the number of women in the workforce has grown even more. Those two groups have higher rates of disabilities than the population overall. That's why the numbers have risen from 500,000 to over 10 million. Fraud, according to the Social Security Administration's data, occurs in "a fraction of one percent" of cases (or about 100,000). Also, the number of conditions that are recognized as qualifying disabilities has risen substantially.
+1
level 46
Oct 5, 2019
Isn’t it confouded by the fact that people nowadays get older? The median age is definetly higher than in 1960
+1
level ∞
Oct 5, 2019
Probably a little bit. But people over the retirement age aren't included in this number. Another factor is that labor participation among women has increased. In any case, these factors can't come anywhere close to explaining a 10x increase.
+1
level 69
Oct 6, 2019
Without being an expert, and the US system being very messy, I tried to look into it a little bit, because I'm not convinced, that fraud can be such a huge factor. While aging and population growth can't entirely account for it, it seems, that the federal government expanded several laws and programs, esp. under Clinton. Maybe the accesibility of benefits has widened, esp. into red states, or the definitions of disability and services available have broadened.