Must-Read: Monique Morrissey: Are Disability Rates Increasing?

Must-Read: I used to think Mark Duggan and company had a point about SSDI. But with more and more things like this coming across the desk–and with my inability to find any holes in them–I am coming more and more to the conclusion that he does not…

Monique Morrissey: Are Disability Rates Increasing?: “Congressional Republicans are trying to block a routine reallocation of funds to the SSDI Trust Fund…

Are Disability Rates Increasing Economic Policy Institute
Are Disability Rates Increasing Economic Policy Institute

…insisting that they will only allow reallocation if ‘reforms’ to SSDI are implemented. The intellectual underpinning for their demands is that there is an unfolding fiscal crisis caused by workers who are able to earn a living but are instead choosing to claim disability benefits. A chief proponent of this view, Stanford economist Mark Duggan, testified before the Senate Budget Committee earlier this year….

SSDI benefits have become, if anything, less generous. Moreover, even research cited by critics shows SSDI receipt has a negligible impact on work effort because few applicants, including marginal applicants who were denied benefits, are able to earn a living afterward. Meanwhile, there are good explanations for the increase in the share of beneficiaries suffering from musculoskeletal disorders, including an aging population, rising obesity rates, and fewer workers able to retire early when their health deteriorates….

While ‘raw’ or unadjusted incidence–the number of new awards per thousand insured persons–increased as the large baby boomer cohort aged into the peak disability years before retirement, age-adjusted incidence hasn’t trended upward over the past 20 years, though it increased during periods of high unemployment…. It’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke there must be fire. But when it comes to Republicans claiming that ‘financial incentives’ are fueling a rise in disability, we should look for smoke and mirrors. As researchers at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have laid out in detail, Duggan and other critics have made much of a growth in enrollment that is mostly due to demographic and other identifiable factors that have nothing to do with people gaming the system…

June 30, 2015

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