“U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy”

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 — or nearly one in 12 of the county’s adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics.

The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.

The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 — 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.The growth of the disability rolls has accelerated since the recession hit in 2007….

Many recipients first go on unemployment, which can last a few months or even more than year. Disability, by contrast, can pay out benefits for decades. The vast majority of recipients never return to work.

“The disability program is increasingly becoming a long-term unemployment program,” said Richard Burkhauser, a Cornell University professor who co-wrote a book on disability policy and has testified before Congress about the program. “We see a lot of it now because of the effects of the recession.”

via The Washington Post.

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