There has been a dramatic shrinkage in the United States over the past 20 years in the number of workers actually employed and earning paychecks per worker who is not employed and is taking federal disability insurance payments.
In June 1992, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 118,419,000 people employed in the United States, and, according to theSocial Security Administration, there were 3,334,333 workers taking federal disability payments. That equaled about 1 person taking disability payments for each 35.5 people actually working.
When President Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, there were 142,187,000 people employed and 7,442,377 workers taking federal disability payments. That equaled about 1 person taking disability payments for each 19.1 people actually working.
In May of this year, there were 142,287,000 people employed, and8,707,185 workers taking federal disability payments. That equaled 1 worker taking disability payments for each 16.3 people working.
The federal disability payments made to the record 8,733,461 workers in June averaged $1,111.42.
Only 11 states--California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas—have populations in excess of the 8,733,461 workers who took disability payments in June.
New Jersey’s 2010 Census population of 8,807,501 approximates the 8,733,461 workers who collected federal disability insurance in June.
In addition to the 8,733,461 workers taking federal disability payments in June, there were also 165,469 spouses of disabled workers getting federal disability payments and 1,899,756 children of disabled workers getting benefits. That brought the total number of beneficiaries receiving disability insurance payment in June to 10,798,686.
Federal disability insurance is funded by a 1.8 percent payroll tax split between employers and workers. Self-employed people pay the entire 1.8 percent.
The Social Security System’s Disability Insurance Trust Fund has run deficits in each of the last three fiscal years, meaning the government has needed to borrow money to pay disability benefits to the workers claiming them. In fiscal 2009, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund deficit was $8.5 billion. In fiscal 2010, it was $20.8 billion. And in fiscal 2011, it was $25.3 billion.
To be eligible for federal disability insurance payments, a person must have worked long enough to have qualified for the benefits and must also meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled.”
“We consider you disabled under Social Security rules if: You cannot do work that you did before; we decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death,” says the Social Security Administration.
Whether someone has worked long enough to qualify for federal disability insurance payments depends on their age and the number of “credits” they have earned from the Social Security system.
“Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income,” SSA explains. “You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2012, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,130 of wages or self-employment income. When you've earned $4,520, you've earned your four credits for the year.”
According to SSA’s formula, someone under 24 years of age would qualify for disability payments if he or she had earned at least 6 credits—or about $6,780—over the three years before they became disabled.