Reports about the rising number of social security disability claims in June sparked debate about the role of the program and the economic health of the country, leading one congressman to claim that Americans had developed a "slave" mentality in their dependence on government support.
Rep. Allen West cited these numbers as evidence that the country is becoming increasingly dependent on social programs, and he said that programs such as Social Security disability insurance are "a form of modern, 21st-century slavery."
However, a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released last month shows that the largest increase in Social Security disability claims came from the Baby Boomer population - who are aging and would have boosted enrollment even if no other factors had changed.
While the number of workers age 45 and older claiming Social Security disability rose from 67 percent to 76 percent from 1996 to 2009, the number of workers between the ages of 25 and 44 claiming benefits fell from 31 percent to 22 percent.
Other factors cited in the report include an increase in women in the workforce since the 1970s and changes to the law in the 1980s that expanded the allowable conditions to claims Social Security disability insurance.
Linking the number of disability claims to unemployment or the state of the economy in general is inappropriate. Workers can only qualify for the benefits if they show that they cannot work because of a medical condition that will last at least a year. The criteria to qualify for benefits is totally independent of the performance of the economy or the job market.
Social Security disability is an important program that provides needed benefits for many Americans, and distorting the conversation like this only threatens the future of this program by undermining support for it.
If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits that you think you are qualified to receive, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 to find out if one of our Social Security disability lawyers may be able to help you. One of our representatives is ready to offer you a free and confidential evaluation of your case.