The most recent indication of a healthier economy can be seen in that there are fewer Americans applying for Social Security disability benefits, which could reverse the trend that was threatening the security of the program for decades.
The change in the number of applicants is so dramatic that the SSDI agency extended the estimated future security of the program. A couple of years ago, the agency anticipated that the funds could be exhausted by 2023; but this month an announcement was made that the funding would last until 2032.
Economic growth is partially responsible for the revised projections, but other contributing factors are the new criteria for eligibility and the exiting of some individuals who have reached the age of admissibility for Medicare and Social Security retirement income.
A Decline in SSDI Applicants
The government has stated that not as many Americans are applying for SSDI benefits as they have in recent years, and the lower rate of applications is helping to stabilize the program. Last year, less than 1.5 million individuals applied for SSDI coverage. That number may seem high, but it has already come down a lot.
The agency itself was surprised at the dramatic fall in the number of applicants, though they did anticipate some degree of a drop beforehand. The good news came at the perfect time since the number of program applicants had been on the rise previously.
Officials speculated in the past as to whether or not the program was fraudulent.
Increasingly Complicated Application and Appeal Process
To counteract the supposed fraud allegations, many changes were made in the application process as it became more difficult. Budget cuts also played a role in closing 67 of the Social Security offices, which also caused reductions in the number of recipients.
“The process of appealing denials tends to also be a highly complex and difficult process for applicants. The judges for the administrative law are usually particularly skeptical as the decision has already been made,” remarked John Foy, attorney and founder of John Foy and Associates. If people believe the process to be too difficult or that approval doesn’t seem attainable, applicants tend to lose their steam.
Internal Agency Changes
The recent success could be attributed to the previous speculation about the SSDI system in regards to the fraudulent and abusive claims; and after public concern had grown, the standards for filing a disability claim were restricted.
The agency discovered that certain judges were disproportionately approving more appeals than others, which called for retraining and additional direction. Now, applicants have a 48% chance of successfully appealing a decision. In 2008, there was as high as a 69% likelihood.
Fortunately, the process for approval was implemented and more restriction occurred; these initiatives were completed as a proactive reaction to the previous investigations and media attention.
Overall, demographic age, policy reform, and economic stabilization have all contributed to rebuilding the program that was in way too deep over its head.