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An aging workforce, not abuse, accounts for spike in benefits

Increased scrutiny has been placed on the Social Security disability program, with many critics, including politicians, claiming that abuse is responsible for the growing number of claims. New evidence suggests that shifts in the workforce population have led to an increased dependence on SSDI and SSD benefits, not abuse. While the number of those collecting benefits has grown, statistics show that that it is not because individuals are taking advantage, but because an aging population has resulted in greater need.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has been in existence for over 55 years. Some critics blame high unemployment rates on the same programs that give the disabled or injured the benefits they are entitled to. Though there has been a spike in claims, there are more workers who need disability benefits after they suffer an illness, accident, work-related injury, or mental illness that leaves them unable to return to work.

This spike, is not because of abuse of claims, but because there are more workers in need of benefits. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.9 percent of the U.S. population was between 45 and 60 when SSDI began. Now, 26.4 percent of the population is in this older demographic of workers. Not surprisingly, age increases the risk of disease and health problems that can impact a worker's health and ability.

In addition to change in an aging workforce, there has also been an increase in the number of women in the workforce. In 2010 more than 70 percent of women were eligible for benefits, where in 1930, only 25 percent of women were eligible to collect Social Security. Women who are are active participants in the workforce are entitled to the program they have contributed to.

An increase in claims demonstrates that the shifting workforce makes the program even more critical to support those who are unable to work because of illness, injury or disability.

Source: The Buffalo News, "Aging, not abuse of system, accounts for increased use," Jeffrey Freedman, Sept. 7, 2012

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