Social Security data shows Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications have more than doubled in the period from 2000 to 2009.
There were 2,816,244 applications filed last year. Soaring disability claims in the midst of a plummeting economy has some questioning the legitimacy of claims.
Unemployment and the Disabled Worker
A recent disability advocate's study reflects that the unemployment rates for people with disabilities reached its highest quarterly rate in the third quarter of 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 15.6 percent, compared to 9.3 percent for those with no disabilities.
As of October, more than 2.25 million people had filed SSDI applications in 2010. The number of disability claims has been increasing for years due to aging baby boomers who are becoming unable to work; the current economic crisis is only fueling the surge in applications.
In a vibrant economy, employers are more apt to accommodate disabled employees, many disability lawyers say. People who have a medical condition that would qualify them for disability benefits may have continued to work anyway; based on significant accommodations by employers that had gone beyond even that which was and is required by the law.
However, when there is a downturn, it becomes difficult for employers economically to keep these workers on the payroll. This pool of newly unemployed workers often finds that their physical problems make it impossible to reenter the work force. Complicating the problem, unemployed people often lose the ability to afford health care otherwise available when they were employed.
A consequent deterioration in general health and the specific impairments which previously made work difficult combined with the loss of economic stability often leads to serious additional psychological distress and reduced ability to function in a work setting.
Legitimate Claimants Waiting for Approval
Thus, attorneys say despite the appearance of the spike in claims, the additional claims are usually legitimate. A Georgia disability lawyer says there is a public misconception that it is easy to get approved. That view is shared by most disability advocates.
In reality, it is difficult to fake a disability and gain benefits. The process is a lengthy one, with multiple reviews of claims over an extended period of time, requiring multiple medical opinions in addition to a solid medical record to succeed.
Additionally, the increase in claims means, by necessity,longer waits for some; there are nearly 1.8 million SSDI claims pending, with an average cumulative wait time of more than 850 days. Applicants are well advised to consult with an SSDI attorney before filing or certainly before appearing at any required hearings in front of Administrative Law Judges.
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