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800-pound gorilla

To the Editor:

As a baby boomer, my ears perk whenever I hear a politico espousing a fix for Social Security. There’s no doubt my generation is going to have a tremendous impact on the program. But retirees are not the 800-pound gorilla that nobody seems to see. (At least I didn’t until I stumbled across an article and did some research.)

The gorilla is Social Security Disability Insurance. From November 2011 to November 2012, 1.27 million people were added to Social Security Disability to increase the rolls to 8.8 million Americans. You can do the math as to the percentage of growth in one year.

According to economists Mark Duggan and Scott Imbermann, there are a couple of reasons for the growth of recipients: Eligibility requirements have been relaxed, and once on the rolls, case reviews are shoddy. The award formulas are more generous, which makes work less attractive.

According to economist David Autor, a professor at M.I.T., in 2010 SSDI outlays grew at 5.6 percent compared with 2.2 percent for all other Social Security spending. Autor puts this in lay terms: In 1988 $1 of every $10 collected for Social Security went to SSDI; currently $1 from every $5 goes to the same.

Probably the fastest-growing component of coverage is mental disorders, which comprise about 33 percent of all cases. I’ll leave you with one last sobering statistic; less than 1 percent of the SSDI recipients will ever return to the workforce.

Steve Moore



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