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SSD insolvency is not inevitable, part one

You have probably seen the reports from nearly every news outlet, all of which loudly predict that Social Security Disability is quickly running out of money, and that the SSD trust fund will run dry by 2018. While there is some truth to the latter statement, Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is quick to point out that Social Security Disability insolvency is completely avoidable, as there are many ways in which lawmakers can act to keep the program funded for several decades to come.

In an effort to quiet the alarmist media hype surrounding the potential 2018 insolvency of SSD, Ruffing first explains how the reports about the increase in SSD recipients may be misleading. In December of 2010, 8.2 million Americans received some form of disability benefits from Social Security. This number has doubled since 1996, while the working-age population has comparatively only increased by one-fifth.

However, Ruffing says, there are several alternative explanations for the increase. First, the baby boomer generation - people born between 1946 and 1964 - have grown older. And because older people are more likely to be unable to work because of a disability, that large generation has also contributed to the increase in SSD recipients.

Second, Ruffing says, there are more women in the workforce. In general, to qualify for SSD benefits, an employee must have worked for at least one quarter of their adult life and for five of the previous 10 years. Until women began entering the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s, many were disqualified from SSD programs because they had not worked long enough. Therefore, these women who began to work in such great numbers are now also qualifying for SSD in equally large numbers, they are also contributing to the increase in SSD recipients.

We will continue our discussion of this topic in a blog post later this week.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Alarmist Stories Misportray Social Security Disability Insurance," Kathy Ruffing, August 23, 2011

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