Is America a land of opportunity -- or disability?
More than 8.8 million US workers now collect the benefits, a sixfold jump since 1970 that cost the government $135 billion last year.
While the economy shows signs of gaining strength, another segment of the U.S. is growing even faster: the number of workers going on disability insurance.
More than 8.8 million disabled workers received payments from the government in January, a sixfold increase since 1970, when 1.5 million disabled workers received assistance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That trend has picked up in recent years, with the disability rolls surging by 24% since 2007, when the recession began, according to data from the Social Security Administration and the CBO.
That means 5% of the working-age population received disability in 2011, with 2012 outlays costing the government $135 billion. While it's unclear how that surge affects the country's biggest employers, such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and Kroger (KR), the trend means fewer adults in the workforce.
By comparison, disability payments outpace the government's ballooning spending on food stamps, which last year cost the U.S. $74.6 billion.
So what's going on with American workers? As outlined in an excellent Planet Money piece that looked at Hale County, Ala., where nearly one in four working-age adults receives disability, Americans are suffering from sometimes "squishy" medical diagnoses.
That means while one person claiming to suffer from back pain might receive disability, especially if he's a manual laborer, an office worker may not, the piece charges.
Of course, disability covers workers with a wide range of serious physical and mental problems, from autism to blindness. And the Social Security Administration, which doles out the payments, points to major demographic changes as the cause for the surge in disabled workers during the 1980s and 1990s.
For starters, more women, who started entering the workforce en masse several decades ago, now qualify for disability. On top of that, an aging population means more illness and injury, the CBO notes.
Men now represent fewer than 53% of people receiving disability, while the average age of recipients was 53, according to the Social Security Administration.
"We're not just living longer, but we're living disabled longer as well," Disability Insurance Services president Daniel Steenerson told CNNMoney.com.
Some are advocating for reforms, with Time's Joe Klein writing Tuesday that the "government has gotten sloppy about admissions."
Regardless of how you feel about the issue, one thing is certain: Some changes will be needed, given the CBO notes disability expenditures have exceeded dedicated revenue since 2009 and the benefit will exhaust its trust fund in 2016.
1. Take a few million older workers off the UE rolls, put them on SS and call them retired.
2. Take a few million more workers off the UE rolls, put them on SSI and call them disabled.
3. Take a few million more workers off the UE rolls, give them loans and grants and call them students.
This "squishy" situation is nothing but fraud, and what does this administration do about it? NOTHING. In fact they have allowed and encouraged it.......Democrats forever!!
By the way, wonder what color those 1 in 4 fine folks are? It doesn't matter........it's still costing the honest people a ton.
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