Number of people receiving disability benefits increasing

Many Pennsylvania residents have likely benefitted from disability benefits in recent years. According to a one report, the number of people receiving disability benefits has increased since the recession began several years ago. And, even though the recession ended in 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of unemployment claims and disability benefits claims has continued to increase.

There are numerous possible explanations for the increase in disability claims. In addition to a poor economy and difficulty securing a job, one report indicates that a change in how disabilities are classified could also explain the increase of disability claims over the years.

According to the Star Tribune, Congress changed the guidelines for processing disability claims in 1984. At that point, the Social Security Administration began accounting for a worker's entire state of health and ability to work when determining disability claims instead of only approving claims for illnesses matching a specific list of illnesses or disabilities.

This change in the method of determining disabilities may have led to more people with difficult to diagnose conditions receiving disability benefits. Social Security disability benefits can be very helpful when a person cannot secure a job because of an illness or injury. For a person with an uncommon medical problem, the SSA's greater acceptance of illnesses may be very beneficial.

It is critical for anyone applying for disability benefits to realize that they are not necessarily guaranteed to receive benefits. Many applicants' claims are denied when they first submit an application, leading many applicants to file appeals for their denied claims. Since the application process can be complicated and may require an appeal, seeking guidance from an attorney knowledgeable about applying for disability benefits may make the process easier for applicants.

Source: Star Tribune, "A joblessness trap," Edward Glaeser, Jan. 2, 2013

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