Disability benefits are part of the social security entitlement program and increasing costs and escalating numbers of claims are causing challenges. Some economists and others question if the bad economy along with the fact that people not being able to find jobs as readily, has any connection to the increasing number of disability claims in the last decade.
Joining host, Dennis McCuistion, are:
Carl Weisbrod, JD – Past President: National Organization of Social Security Claimants
Pamela Villarreal, PhD – Economist, Senior Fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis
Left to Right: Pamela Villarreal, Dennis McCuistion and Carl Weisbrod
2012 saw $132 billion paid in disability claims, a figure increasing faster than social security payouts. The labor force is growing at 1% and yet claims are up by 5%. Is there a connection between growing disability claims, payouts, and the labor force not being replaced as more people go on social security/ disability? Regardless there is a real problem with increasing costs and many claim there is also a severe need for reform.
Part of the challenge may be demographics: as baby boomers age there is more need and there are now larger numbers of women in the work force. But age and demographics are not the sole issue. Disability claims have tripled since 1980, and doubled since 1995. As Dr. Villarreal tells us, changes made to disability back in the 80’s have made it easier for individuals to claim benefits. The largest growing diagnosis today is for chronic back pain and treatable mental disorders that include anxiety and depression, with the latter showing an increase from 10% to 32% in the last 32 years. Half of the mental impairment claims are from individuals under 50 years of age. Yet, mental impairment may affect an individual’s working ability overall.
The process for qualifying is still tough. Mr. Weisbrod says that the criteria are extremely strict. A doctor’s diagnosis is not sufficient; 90% of disability determination is based on medical evidence- what’s in the medical records, not just what the doctor has to say. The law requires that social security look for lab tests and clinical findings that substantiate claims.
Are people on disability forever? How is fraud and malingering found out? And what must be done to ensure that the people who actually need disability benefits receive what’s fair and those who don’t are disqualified?
Join us for a good look at the truth behind disability benefits and necessary reform.
As always we’re talking about things that matter with people who care.