Press Release Health and Social Programs United States Workers

Disability Insurance Trust Fund Coffers Recover As Fewer Claims Are Allowed

October 20, 2021

Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159Mail_Outline

Washington DC — The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program is in good shape with the date of the trust fund’s depletion projected as 2057, according to the most recent Trustees’ report. But that wasn’t always the case.

The DI trust fund has made a striking revival since 2015 when it was just one year away from exhaustion. A new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows that the improvement in finances is due to a lower rate of disability claims which are allowed and, since 2010, fewer people applying.

The article, The Social Security Disability Trust Fund Has Gotten Healthier: Have Workers?, by Anaïs Goubert and Dean Baker, shows the percentage of claims allowed was little changed between 1999 and 2008, after which it began to fall sharply. In later years, the number of claims filed fell as well. It is likely that discouraged workers are a factor in the decline of applications.

The rate of disability claims which are allowed declines from just over 60 percent in 1999 to just over 50 percent in 2018. That allowance rate excludes applicants that were turned down for technical reasons, such as having earnings that are too high to qualify or not having enough quarters of work to be eligible for benefits.

“The increased difficulty in obtaining disability benefits does save the program money, but potentially at a human cost,” explains co-author and CEPR senior economist Baker. “If people who are in fact disabled are too discouraged to apply or are being denied benefits, then the program is not performing the function for which it was designed.”

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