Why are so many of us disabled?
Is it something in the air? The water? Our food?
8,753,935: Workers on Disability Set Another Record in July; Exceed
Population of 39 States
July 23, 2012
The number of workers taking federal disability insurance payments hit
yet another record in July, increasing to 8,753,935 during the month
from the previous record of 8,733,461 set in June, according to newly
released data from the Social Security Administration.
The 8,753,935 workers who took federal disability insurance payments in
July exceeded the population of 39 of the 50 states. Only 11
states—California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey—had more people
in them than the number of workers on the federal disability insurance
rolls in July.
Virginia, the twelfth most-populous state, had 8,096,604 people in 2011,
according to the latest Census Bureau estimate. That would make
Virginia’s population about 657,331 less than the number of workers who
took federal disability insurance payments in July.
Congress enacted legislation in 1956 to add federal disability insurance
to the Social Security system. Over the decades, the number of Americans
actually working has dramatically declined relative to the number
claiming federal disability insurance payments.
By July 1967, there 74,520,000 Americans actually working and 1,145,663
workers taking disability payments. That made a ratio of 65 actual
workers for each worker collecting disability. In July 1987, there were
112,634,000 people actually working and 2,759,852 people collecting
disability—a ratio of about 41 actual workers to each worker collecting
When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, there were
142,187,000 people actually working and 7,442,377 workers collecting
disability—a ratio of about 19 to 1.
In June, there were 142,415,000 people actually working and 8,733,461
workers claiming disability—a ratio of about 16 to 1.
In July, in addition to the 8,753,935 workers who received federal
disability insurance payments, there were also 165,564 spouses of
disabled workers and 1,850,653 children of disabled workers who received
payments. That brought the total number of disability beneficiaries to
Federal disability insurance is funded by a 1.8 percent payroll tax that
is split between employers and workers. Self-employed people pay the
entire 1.8 percent.
The Social Security System’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund has run
deficits in each of the last three fiscal years, meaning the government
has needed to borrow money to pay disability benefits to the workers
claiming them. In fiscal 2009, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund ran a
deficit of $8.5 billion. In fiscal 2010, it ran a deficit of $20.8
billion. And in fiscal 2011, it ran a deficit of $25.3 billion.
To be eligible for federal disability insurance payments, a person must
have worked long enough to have qualified for the benefits and must also
meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled.”
“We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if: You cannot do
work that you did before; we decide that you cannot adjust to other work
because of your medical condition(s); and your disability has lasted or
is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death,” says
the Social Security Administration.
Whether someone has worked long enough to qualify for federal disability
insurance payments depends on their age and the number of “credits” they
have earned from the Social Security system.
“Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or
self-employment income,” the Social Security Administration explains.
“You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a
credit changes from year to year. In 2012, for example, you earn one
credit for each $1,130 of wages or self-employment income. When you've
earned $4,520, you've earned your four credits for the year.”
According to the Social Security Administration’s formula, someone under
24 years of age would qualify for disability payments if he or she had
earned at least 6 credits—or about $6,780—over the three years before
they became disabled.