In recent years, the number of Americans receiving Social Security Disability has skyrocketed in California and throughout the country, jumping from 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000 to 10.2 million beneficiaries in 2010. While this is not to suggest that those receiving SSD benefits need and deserve them, it is impossible to ignore that the program has grown beyond its means. If it continues at its current pace, SSD is projected to run out of money within seven years, leaving SSD recipients high and dry.
While SSD is a federal program, the decision of how and whether to grant benefits to individual applicants is largely left up to the states and U.S. territories. This means that different states have different acceptance rates. However, the majority of the local governments accept applicants into the program at relatively similar rates, with one exception. Puerto Rico regularly accepts more SSD applicants than any other location in the country, and now the Social Security Administration is seeking to find out why.
In 2010, 63 percent of SSD applicants in Puerto Rico were accepted into the program, which is four percent higher than the highest acceptance rates for a state in the U.S. In addition, of the top 10 U.S. ZIP codes for SSD beneficiaries, nine are in Puerto Rico, and the territory’s 00725 ZIP code is home to more beneficiaries than any other part of the country.
SSA officials are not sure of the reason for the discrepancy between Puerto Rico and other U.S. locales, but speculate that high unemployment and a greater number of examiners may play a part. SSA officials have launched a full-scale investigation into the country’s application review process.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Disability Claims in Puerto Rico Get New Scrutiny“, Damian Paletta, 26 March 2011