More on disability benefits story:
But let’s take a look at some demographics here, because, as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities point out in their response to the piece, demographics account for the changes in disability benefits enrollment, rather decisively. For starters, 20% of the US population is disabled, and an estimated 10% have ‘severe’ disabilities, like those that might make someone unable to work at all, or able to work only in a limited capacity. Given the overall distribution of people on disability benefits (less than 5% of the US population) in the US, it’s clear that there are some people who aren’t on the rolls who probably should be, rather than the other way around. That number is indeed shifting over time, but not for the reasons cited; it’s not that standards are relaxed and people are faking.
The boomer generation is aging, for one thing, which means more and more people are entering old age, and they’re starting to experience the disabling conditions that can come with aging for many older adults. Advances in medicine have also, of course, improved survival rates for older adults, which means more people are living after major medical events, and more people are requiring more advanced care. For younger disabled people, the same medical advances have improved lifespans and quality of life for people with conditions once deemed fatal at an early age; it’s a good thing that more people are living, and living well, not evidence of a bad thing.
And this is a country in the grip of an economic downturn. An analysis at the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that, yes, the cost for Social Security Disability has in fact exploded, in correlation with the economy. Projections from the trustees’ reports also indicate that once the employment rate stabilizes, these rates should go back down. With a shrinking safety net, people are turning to whatever support they can find to survive.