Disability and the Incredible Shrinking Work Force

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The population is growing, yet the work force is shrinking. In 2000, the civilian labor force participation rate (LFPR) peaked at more than 67 percent. In May of this year, it stands at 63.8 percent. What gives? The recession plays a role, as many chronically unemployed people have given up searching for a job and no longer count themselves as part of the labor force. But there are a variety of other long-term possibilities as to why the labor force participation rate has fallen. According to San Diego State University, baby boomers are starting to retire, and statistically speaking, there

are not enough younger workers to replace them. Some spouses, particularly women who previously worked outside the home, have decided to exit the labor force due to large increase in their husbands’ salaries.

Social Security Disability claims may be having an impact as well.

  • Since the beginning of 2009, more than 5 million people have applied for Social Security disability. About one and one-half million have started receiving benefits. In 1980, about 2.8 million workers were receiving disability, along with about 1.8 million of their dependents.
  • By 2010, those numbers had increased to 8.2 million workers and 2.1 million dependents (not including adult disabled children).
  • To put this

    in context, in 1980 about, 3 percent of the working age population (ages 18 to 65) received disability payments. In 2010, more than 5 percent of the working age population received disability payments.

Who receives Disability benefits and why? And what impact does this have on the future of the program? Read more from the latest NCPA publication, Disability versus Work.



Comments (31)

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  1. Dan Jones, MD says:

    As a physician I’ve seen many patients “get on disability.” In the great majority of cases I’ve seen, Social Security disability destroys lives, pure and simple. I’ve seen this many times. A patient is a normal person–they have medical or mental problems (like most of us), but they struggle, as we all struggle. Sometimes they’re happy because they’re succeeding in some way. Sometimes they’re despondent because they hurt, or because life I hard. But they manage.
    Then they get the notion, often from advertising by lawyers who exploit the SSDI system, that they should “go on disability.” Then life will be better. I warn them what will really happen, but they ignore me.
    There are no objective criteria for SSDI benefits. You can qualify because you’re depressed or because your back hurts. In truth, there simply are no objective medical criteria for disability. The only SSDI qualification is having a good lawyer and determination. So a year later, despite my warning, the patient is “on disability.” Then what happens?
    When they come to my clinic, there are no longer good days and bad days–only bad days. The money is not enough for any sort of “financial security,” so they live in chronic poverty, without hope. They no longer work, even part-time, for fear of losing their benefits, or due to lack of motivation. They are now officially disabled and incompetent to make their way in the world, and their self-image is forever changed.
    They no longer struggle. Even if depression was not the reason for their disability, they become chronically depressed. If they had chronic pain, it becomes worse and more difficult to treat, if only because they have nothing to distract their attention from it.
    It is our daily struggles that bring us joy and self-esteem. Alas, the same anticipation of reward that motivates our struggles, also makes us prey to the delusion that “getting on disability” will solve all our problems. In truth, SSDI just promotes chronic misery, and deprives citizens of that most fundamental Constitutional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    I have described the most common person on disability. The second most common recipient, in my experience, is the non-disabled abuser. These people are well-adjusted and often do work, either part-time or “under the table,” so as to keep their benefits.
    The truly disabled are, in my experience, the third most common category, comprising certainly less than 20%, and probably less than 10% of those receiving SSDI benefits.
    In summary, SSDI is widely abused, and causes far more misery than it relieves. For that reason, it should be abolished. There is a minority of those on SSDI who are truly disabled. One might argue that we only need to tighten the criteria. But to anyone who’s seen such systems evolve, that argument is absurd. Such systems inevitably succumb to the political and bureaucratic expediency that results in incrementalism, abuse, exploitation, waste, and harm to the very citizens they attempt to help. It is time to abolish SSDI because it causes far more harm than good, and it is not repairable.

  2. David Lawrence Holman says:

    I’m experiencing a lot of grief indirectly

  3. David Lawrence Holman says:

    Right on

  4. Joe Barnett says:

    Dr. Jones’ discussion suggests that partial disability benefits (as workers’ comp has) and an emphasis on rehabilitation (where possible) would be improvements to the system. Right now, the incentives of the system are very different.

  5. Dan Jones, MD says:

    Joe Barnett makes a good point regarding incentives. I see two fundamental problems that set a very high bar for any disability system to result in a net benefit to our society:

    1. Any system that offers an ongoing stream of benefits for “free” is certain to be heavily gamed. Disability lawyers and potential beneficiaries will invest their resources to obtain such benefits up to their perceived “break-even point” relative to other potential investments of their resources.

    2. We are an amazingly resilient and adaptable species. The majority of people with disabilities can and will, over time, find a meaningful role in their local culture and economy. That process of adaptation requires an ongoing engagement with one’s family and community that is usually abandoned in the pursuit of “getting on disability.”

    There is a top-down versus bottom-up issue here. The process of adaptation I described above occurs naturally, bottom-up, as a result of people’s innate inclination for in-group support and reciprocity. The top-down approach employed by SSDI is at cross-purposes with our natural adaptive tendencies. It is damaging our culture.

  6. A.J. Shultz says:

    Numerous claims for SSDI are filed with an onset date of disability the same day the person was laid off . The onset date is not related to any medical event . They proceed to receive unemployment benefits that require they have the ability to work full time . They also file for disability and claim they could not work for the same periods they have collected unemployment. The SSA rules allows a person to receive both benefits for the same periods. Why would anyone go to work?

    I raised this problem with Representative Sam Johnson’s Office last year but have seen no action to date.

  7. Johana says:

    You should go and apply and take your medaicl records. If you get turned down APPLY AGAIN -they always turn you down twice unless you are blind in both eyes, have missing limbs, are deaf, and things like that. When your second application is turned down you get a social security lawyer. They do not get paid until you win. Your case can take up to a year but you will get compensation for the year from the time you first applied. Meantime you can’t work. If you work then you do not qualify as disabled. I don’t know if you are getting benefits from workmans comp or some other source but you have to be unable to perform gainful employment.

  8. Erlani says:

    You will have to go through a lot of red tape and will keep your check I’m sure. If you are gitteng one and him too depending on your age you could lose some.This is a thing you should go to the SS office with and get started on. At least get the forms to fill out if death is near. Learn all you can from them.

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