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SSDI fillings represent societal changes, not abuse of the system

As the November elections draw ever closer, many politicians are staking out positions that show them to be responsible stewards of public money. A position that some have taken in recent months is a criticism of those people who receive Social Security Disability benefits. The thinking is that as the economy has worsened, people are using the system in order to maintain an income while they are out of work -- even if they aren't actually disabled. A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, shows that this account simply doesn't hold water.

The study, which was requested by senators in response to reports that the system will run out of money by 2016, found several factors that have increased the number of people on the rolls. Chief among them were these four:

• The population is getting older. Baby boomers are reaching senior citizen status en masse, and as they age, so too does their likelihood for becoming disabled. The share of benefits that now go to workers over age 45 is more than 75 percent. Younger workers receive only about one-fifth of the total benefits.

• Women have streamed into the workforce in the last 40 years. While few people would argue that this has been a bad thing overall, it has increased the number of overall people who could be eligible for and apply for SSDI benefits.

• Changes in the law made it easier for people to apply. In the 1980s, eligibility was expanded so that some neuromuscular disorders and mental disabilities were made eligible for benefits.

• The economy has suffered. Disabled folks might have the chance to work when the economy is humming and jobs are plentiful. However, those same people often find that jobs that are possible to work with a disability dry up when the economy is bad.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Social Security Disability Enrollment Rising Due To Demographic Trends, Not Obama 'Slavery' Plot: CBO," Arthur Delaney and Michael McAuliff, July 17, 2012

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