In yet another example of politics trailing reality, it appears that some of the Social Security crisis may be resolving itself. This graph demonstrates that disability applications and awards are trending downward.
We see here that the number of disability applications skyrocketed around the turn of the century and then peaked around 2012. Interestingly, the first baby boomer to be eligible for retirement occurred in January of 2008. Ms. Kathleen Casey-Kirschling is the oldest baby boomer, which means that the opened the floodgates to Social Security’s looming obligation to pay the pension for millions of baby boomers born after her. Remember, disability strikes people over 50 years of age at rates much higher than younger members of our population. This means that there are millions of individuals in their late 40s and 50s who have been working heavy, manual labor jobs their whole careers. These types of jobs wear down workers’ bodies.
When you account for an aging population and remember that a substantial portion of citizens do not work in sedentary jobs, then the rise of disability applications from 2000 through 2012 makes sense. Assuming the first baby boomer turned 65 in 2008, then it’s reasonable to assume that other boomers in their mid 50s started applying for disability approximately 8 years earlier. Accounting for baby boomers in their 50s applying for disability at record rates explains a great deal of the sudden spike in disability payments.
The counter argument here is that an improving economy leads to less disability applications and that these individuals were never disabled in the first place. That may not be accurate. A booming economy may have more jobs available for disabled individuals because employers are able to accommodate the disabled in greater numbers during times of plenty. As such, more disabled people are able to find work in a healthy economy than in a down one.