Harlan Still & Koch

Fewer people applied for SSD benefits in 2017


People in Missouri who suffer from a disability may find that being able to hold down a job is not possible. When the only jobs available to them are manual labor jobs, it is understandable why a person with a disability would be unable to work. However, when economic times are better and more low-skilled jobs are available that do not require manual labor, more people with disabilities are able to work, as recent numbers show.

According to government officials, under 1.5 million individuals applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2017. This is the lowest number of applicants for SSD benefits since 2002. And so far, this year it is projected that the rate of applicants will be even lower. In May, over 8.5 million individuals received SSD benefits. This is a decline from September 2014, which saw a peak in applicants of 8.96 million.

According to a Syracuse University professor, the decline in disability applicants may be due in part to a stronger economy. In essence, when there are more low-skill jobs available that do not require manual labor, more individuals are able to work. Also, baby boomers that were once receiving SSD benefits are now off those benefits, because they now qualify for Social Security retirement and Medicare benefits. The decline in SSD benefit applicants, according to some experts, may also be due to Medicaid expansion and improvements in insurance via the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, as pointed out by some scholars and advocates, qualifying for SSD benefits has become more difficult in recent years, with over 65 field offices closing. In addition, some administrative law judges reviewing the applications of those who are appealing a denial of benefits are rejecting these appeals more than others.

Still, those who have disabilities and cannot work should not be dissuaded from applying for benefits. While oftentimes one's application for benefits will be rejected, there is an appeals process. This includes a request for reconsideration, an administrative law hearing, a review by the Appeals Court or even a review by the Federal Court. So, those in need of benefits should not be discouraged from applying for them, but should seek the advice needed to ensure their initial application is as strong as possible and to follow through with an SSD appeal if necessary.

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