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Study: Growth in Social Security Disability predictable

Controversy sells. That simple truth of marketing is a part of the sales strategies of newspapers, TV stations and websites from Newark to Napa and everywhere in between.

It's undoubtedly part of what motivated NPR, "60 Minutes" and other media outlets to run stories incorrectly describing the Social Security Disability program as a bottomless pit of taxpayer funds overrun by an unexpected surge in claimants. Now a study by two Social Security Administration economists puts that "controversy" to rest, showing that the increase in SSDI is due in large part to the predictable aging of the U.S. population.

The study points to a number of factors contributing to the rise in SSDI applicants, including the graying of Baby Boomers now starting to hit retirement age, population growth and the increased participation of women in the workforce over the years.

A Los Angeles Times article points out that age is a big factor in determining who is most likely to be prevented by illness or injury from working. Back in 1970, when just a quarter-million new SSDI applications were filed annually, some Baby Boomers were too young to have even finished school or started a career. Fast forward to today and there are Baby Boomers who are retired or rapidly approaching retirement age.

Because the Baby Boom generation was the largest in American history, as its members get older, the average age of Americans goes up, too.

As the article points out, the "disability prone" years tend to be from a working person's 40s to their mid-60s, making it entirely predictable that as America got grayer, its numbers of disabled workers would rise.

The Times writer notes that with the study, journalists now have one less excuse for sloppy reporting on Social Security Disability Insurance and its recipients.

For those facing a disabling condition preventing them from working, it's a good idea to get the facts about applying for SSDI and appealing an SSDI denial from an attorney experienced in successfully helping people with this vital safety net.

Source: LATimes.com, "Explaining the 'mystery' of where all the disabled are coming from," Michael Hiltzik, Dec. 3, 2013

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