The number of Social Security Disability benefit recipients has increased dramatically in recent decades, as many Chicago residents know. According to The Washington Post, from 1980 to 2010, the number of beneficiaries rose 187 percent. Critics contend that this is because more unqualified people are receiving benefits. However, as most disability lawyers in Illinois know, many variables can explain this growth, including demographic changes.
Data indicates the rising number of SSD beneficiaries is due in part to the aging population of baby boomers. The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary notes that people most commonly develop disabilities between ages 45 and 64. As more of the population reaches this age range, more people may qualify for SSD benefits.
The growing number of women in the workforce is another factor contributing to the increase in SSD beneficiaries. As more women have started working, a greater total number of workers have become eligible for disability benefits.
In contrast, overpayments or improperly awarded benefits do not appear to be responsible for the rising number of beneficiaries. According to The Washington Post, in 2013, the Government Accountability office concluded just 0.4 percent of beneficiaries received overpayments. Furthermore, a large proportion of all SSD claims are denied. Even after appeals, about half of applicants fail to receive benefits, due to the SSA’s strict standards.
As any disability lawyers in Illinois can verify, people seeking SSD benefits must meet stringent criteria. Before an applicant’s disabling condition can be evaluated, the applicant must meet the following requirements:
- The applicant must have an adequate earnings record. The applicant must have paid enough in Social Security taxes, cumulatively and in recent years, to qualify as insured.
- The applicant must not engage in substantial gainful activity, or work with income over a certain threshold. In 2015, the income limit for most applicants is $1,090. Applicants suffering from statutory blindness may earn up to $1,820.
- The person must suffer from a long-term or severe condition. Specifically, the condition must be anticipated to last at least 12 months or result in mortality.
If these criteria are met, the SSA evaluates the medical merits of a person’s claim. A person may qualify for benefits by meeting the terms of a listing in the “Blue Book” of disabling conditions. However, many conditions do not appear in the book or meet the necessary requirements. In these cases, applicants may receive medical-vocational allowances if their functional limitations preclude employment.
Qualifying for benefits in either manner can be challenging, due to the SSA’s strict standards. People with disabling conditions often may benefit from partnering with disability lawyers in Illinois while preparing their claims.