NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

American Men Find Careers in Collecting Disability

December 5, 2012

Since the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the United States has accomplished a lot in terms of helping people with disabilities live and work with ease. Not only has the government spent money on improving infrastructure to accommodate for millions of disabled people, it also has a federal program, the Disability Insurance program, part of Social Security, to aid those that are disabled, says Michael Barone, senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.

While the idea of providing income for those that are unable to work is popular, many people in recent years have sought to "game the system" to get money without having to work, despite being able.

  • In 1960, about 455,000 workers received disability payments.
  • However in 2011, that number soared to 8,600,000.
  • In 1960, the percentage of the economically active 18-to-64-year-old population receiving disability benefits was 0.65 percent.
  • In 2011, it was 5.6 percent.

The Disability Insurance program started out small and was a sliver of total Social Security costs. Now, the cost of the program has soared to the point that lawmakers need to do something about it. This can be attributed to the fact that a few decades ago, the Social Security Administration was very strict about denying benefits. Now, it seems as though the administration is approving cases that make dubious disability claims.

For instance, in 1960, only about one-fifth of disability benefits went to those with mood disorders or musculoskeletal problems. In 2011, nearly half of those receiving benefits had such complaints. The ratio of new disability claims to new jobs in the private sector is especially troubling.

  • Between 1996 and 2011, the private sector created 8.8 million new jobs while 4.1 million people received disability insurance.
  • Since the economic recovery, from January 2010 to December 2011, there were about 1,730,000 new jobs and 790,000 new people collecting disability.
  • Furthermore, 15 percent of those receiving disability insurance were in their 30s or early 40s.

Now, the government transfers about $130 billion to disability beneficiaries every year. This is a growing portion of the budget and will likely need to be revisited by lawmakers. Moreover, the increase in the number of people on the disability rolls has a social cost. A healthy person can try and game the system and collect money without having to work. This has serious implications for social capital and the economy.

Source: Michael Barone, "American Men Find Careers in Collecting Disability," Washington Examiner, December 1, 2012.


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