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SSA study finds fraud not key in rising disability claims

The Social Security system is facing a lot of difficulty. That should come as no big surprise to anyone in California or the rest of the country. Critics, especially those of the program providing Social Security disability insurance benefits, point to one telltale of concern in particular -- the seeming explosion in the number of claims filed in recent years.

The critics observe that while the SSDI system faced claims of 250,000 in 1970, the number of claimants by 2008 had shot up to nearly 900,000. Their speculative explanation for the jump has tended to be that there must be a lot of fraud going on, or that there are just a lot of lazy Americans.

Well, perhaps a new study by two SSA economists will squelch some of that rhetoric. 

The analysts say there are some clearly identifiable factors to explain most of the SSDI claim filings -- and none of them have anything to do with deception or laziness.

The economists, working for the SSA's Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, examined more than 35 years of demographic information. They concluded that general population growth, the maturation of the baby boom generation into disability-prone ages, and the greater proportion of women in the workforce account for 90 percent of the disabled population. Indeed, those three factors are the reason for 94 percent of the increases in claims recorded between 1990 and 2008.

This information may do nothing to dispel the very real concerns that exist about the funding crisis the SSA faces, but perhaps it may encourage individuals who face the frustration of legitimate claim denials and appeals as they work with their attorneys on their efforts. 

Source: LATimes.com, "Explaining the 'mystery' of where all the disabled are coming from," Michael Hiltzik, Dec. 3, 2013 

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