There Are Not More People Going on Disability Than Getting Jobs

Sometimes perception does not meet reality.

This post is in response to a comment in a local newspaper. In the “Spout Off” section of the Northwest Florida Daily News, a commentator complained:

“There are more people going on disability than getting jobs. Apparently it is easier to qualify for disability than get a job.  Something [sic] really wrong with this situation.”

Now this comment just rubbed me the wrong way because it is factually incorrect and demonstrably false.

I don’t like to speak in generalizations. It is far more useful to look at the true facts to draw a proper conclusion.

Disability Versus Jobs in 2012

According to Data from Social Security’s Disability Program, there were 2,820,812 applications for disability insurance benefits in 2012.  Only 979,973 applications were approved in 2012, which is a 34.74% approval rate.  It is interesting to note that the number of approved applications was down 4.39% from the year before.  Moreover, 726,432 disability claims were terminated which resulted in a net increase of only 253,541 disability insurance beneficiaries in 2012.

Now let’s look at the job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added an average of 153,000 per month for a total of about 1.8 million jobs in 2012. This is almost exactly the same number of jobs created in 2011.

So we have a net increase of 253,541 disability recipients in 2012 and 1,800,000 new jobs created in 2012.  I would say that the newspaper commentator is exaggerating just a bit.

As for ease of getting benefits, the newspaper commentator is also wrong in that regard according to the same numbers cited above.

It typically takes over one year to have an appeal heard before an Administrative Law Judge.  There are not many people who are going to risk applying for disability when they have only a 34.74% chance of winning and they may have to wait over one year for a hearing before a judge.

In my experience, only those with severe and debilitating disabilities are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance. Even if applicants with weaker claims do file an initial application for benefits, they typically do not go through the appeal process. A winning claim must be supported by medical evidence documenting a severe and debilitating impairment. Those without evidence of a “medically determinable impairment” will not qualify.

Thus, to say that someone can just go out and file and get disability as a free choice instead of getting a job is inaccurate and misinformed.

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