NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disability: The New Welfare?

April 8, 2013

The British government recently required everyone receiving an "incapacity benefit" to submit to a medical test to verify his or her inability to work. An astonishing 33 percent of participants, some 878,000 people, dropped out of the program without a test, while 55 percent of those tested were found fit to work and 25 percent were found fit for some work. In America, it is possible that recipients of disability programs are just as capable of working, says Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times.

  • In 1960, only 0.65 percent of the workforce between age 18 and age 64 was receiving a Social Security disability insurance payment.
  • Today, 5.6 percent of the workforce receives payment, despite reduced physical labor and better overall health.

The number of Americans working for every disabled worker has fallen from 134 to 1 in 1960 to about 16 workers per disabled worker in 2010. There are many reasons the number of disabled workers has more than doubled every 15 years.

  • Proponents of disability payments say that the entry of women into the U.S. workforce, the aging of baby boomers and the recession have all caused disability to increase in recent years.
  • Twenty-nine percent of the 8.6 million Americans who received disability benefits at the end of 2011 cited musculoskeletal system and connective tissue injuries, while 15 percent claimed mood disorders.
  • Mood disorders and back pain are difficult to disprove and the rewards for people in the "Vast Disability Industrial Complex" are large.

Lawyers frequently fight for more benefits for their clients only to receive a percentage of the back pay received. This may be one reason why 250,000 people have been applying for disabilities every month since 2009 when America has averaged 150,000 new jobs per month.

  • One doctor in rural Alabama signs disabilities for anyone who asks because his or her employment prospects may not be that great.
  • The trend indicates that disability programs are taking the place of welfare for people who feel they cannot work.
  • Because the federal government, not the states, pays for disabilities, a test like the one mandated in Britain might reveal how many recipients are truly disabled.

Source: Jonah Goldberg, "Goldberg: Is Disability the New Welfare?" Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2013. Pamela Villarreal, "Disability versus Work," National Center for Policy Analysis, June 21, 2012.


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