A Disturbing Trend In Disability
It is estimated that a full 5% of America’s workforce is permanently out of commission due to the rising claims of federal disability. The U.S. government describes this as the result of two trends:
- On average, Americans are getting older. With age comes multiple health concerns.
- More women have entered the workforce, increasing the number of female workers with health conditions to nearly as many as men.
However, independent researchers and experts have begun to see evidence that Americans are using disability insurance as a kind of safety-net when the job market is down or work is harder to come by. These people may have some ability to continue working in many sectors, but as disability tends to pay higher rates than minimum wage, it makes more sense to claim disability.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimates that 40-60 percent of the increase in disability claims is a result of the program attracting broader constituency. It has become easier to qualify for disability because claims are being judged on subjective criteria. And as wages in America continue to stagnate and income inequity continues to soar, disability benefits have become more lucrative for lower-wage workers.
Demands Straining The System
However, disability seems to be acting very much more like a spider’s web than a safety net, as very few people historically return to the job market during rebound periods. This means there are fewer workers in America and more disability claimants that are dependent on those workers to pay their taxes.
Unfortunately, this also puts an enormous and unnecessary strain on the federal disability program, which is quickly running out of money. The United States government predicts that the fund for disability will no longer be able to meet all of its claims as early as 2016.
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says that disability “is likely to keep expanding unless program rules and incentives are fundamentally altered.”