PENSIONS: Why Social Security Disability Is Growing

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BY MICHAEL P. BOYLE, ESQ./ You may have read elsewhere warnings about how growth in the Social Security Disability program presents funding problems in the long run.

The number of SSD beneficiaries has doubled since 1995, from approximately 4 million recipients to about 8 million in 2010. Reasons for this increase are due mainly to the aging of the baby-boom generation and the entry of women into the workforce in larger numbers. Some of the increase is due to the raising of the retirement age from age 65 to closer to age 66 currently.

Some have speculated that the rise in beneficiaries is due to the economic downturn we experienced following the 2008 recession. While applications for SSD benefits have risen since then, there is no evidence that unqualified people are being awarded SSD benefits.

To qualify for SSD benefits, an applicant has to show that she meets the stringent criteria to be found disabled. SSA does not automatically grant benefits to someone who lost her job due to the bad economy.

To get benefits, you still must show you have a severe impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months. In addition, you must prove either that your condition meets or equals one of the Listings that appears in the Listing of Impairments, or that your impairments render you unable to perform your past work or other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy.

Nationally, almost 2/3 of the SSD applications that are filed are denied at the initial level. In those areas of the country that require a request for reconsideration, almost 90% of those requests are denied.

Your chances for getting benefits improve if you request a hearing before a judge. Still, the prospect of applying for and receiving benefits is daunting. The notion that undeserving applicants routinely are approved for benefits is a myth perpetrated mainly by those who wish to dismantle the safety net.

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