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Social Security Disability enrollment levels off

Most people who regularly follow the news understand that dramatic stories of impending doom get more attention than level-headed descriptions of reality. The point is illustrated by news coverage over the past several years of Social Security Disability.

Many news outlets have been running stories about the skyrocketing numbers of people applying for SSDI, painting the program as bloated and headed for disaster. Yet how many in New Jersey and nationwide have reported on the fact that SSDI enrollment has held steady for a full year? 

In March of last year, 10,939,936 Americans were receiving disability benefits. That figure increased to just over 10,988,000 in December and has since fallen back a bit. As of last month, the number stood at 10,981,423.

So the increase in SSDI enrollment in that time is less than one half of one percent, but it’s hard to find a media outlet reporting that. The Wall Street Journal is an exception (you can find a link to the article below).

Average monthly payments “have ticked up slightly,” the paper notes, to $995.38.

Unfortunately, the Journal describes SSDI as an “entitlement program,” when in reality it’s an insurance program paid for by workers out of their paychecks and by employers, too.

It notes, however, that as the Great Recession played out, claims rose. Nearly three million Americans applied for benefits in 2010, but last year the number had fallen to 2.6 million. Of that figure, the Social Security Administration agreed to pay benefits to just 884,894 workers, or about one third.

That shows how difficult it can be for applicants to get their claims approved. Most initial claims are rejected. That rejection can be followed with an appeal to an administrative judge; an exacting, difficult process in which the assistance of an experienced attorney can be crucial. 

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Has Social Security Disability Enrollment Hit Plateau?" Damian Paletta and Josh Zumbrun, Apr 16, 2014

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