Over the past year, Social Security Disability programs have been under intense scrutiny. SSDI critics have created an atmosphere of hysteria alleging that disability rolls are growing out of control and that in 2016, it will run out of money. Many conservative business publications such as the Washington Times and Forbes magazine have been instrumental in waging this assault against Social Security Disability. However, the truth about what has really happened with the raise in disability claims is finally coming out. This past week, a blog in the Wall Street Journal presented statistical evidence that shows that the raise in Social Security Disability benefit rolls might be hitting a plateau. (See Has Social Security Disability Enrollment Hit a Plateau? by Damian Paletta and Josh Zumbrun)
What critics of the Social Security Disability program have failed to explain to the general public is that the sharp raise in claims since 2004, as well as the current plateau that it is currently experiencing, was forecast years ago by program analysts. The raise in claims was generated by demographic changes, not by fraud and abuse or, by the economic downturn.
While the Wall Street Journal Blog does not fully acknowledge that demographics changes have been the true cause of the sharp rise in disability claims, it certainly confirms that the program is not growing out of control as it had been originally reported. Another important fact mentioned by the blog is that the amount of money that is being paid to Social Security Disability Lawyers and representatives has definitely declined. It would be interesting to know whether this decline in fees paid to lawyers is also due to a trend by ALJ's and agency examiners to change the disability onset dates alleged by applicants; this practice has the effect of reducing the amount of back due benefits paid to applicants and the amount of money paid in legal fees.