Rob Nikolewski over at Capitol Report has done a great bit of reporting/research on our state’s exploding “disability” population. Between 2003 and 2011, the population rose by an astonishing 58.7%. Given that, it is no surprise that our state’s work force participation rate is among the lowest in the nation and the lowest in our region (see chart below):
SSDI (disability) is ripe for reform and even liberals like Joe Klein writing over at Time “get it.” Problem is that it is politically-tough to end government programs that encourage dependency.
5 Replies to “New Mexico’s SSDI population soars”
Since you can only receive SSDI if you worked and paid in, it seems to me that NM real problem is job creation. The 2nd half of that is that many people on disability would live to work but employers are not willing to hire them.
I am pretty sure you aren’t advocating taking away the small amount most recipients get from SSDI ($1,000/mth is about average) and putting them on the streets, because then you are trading a jobs issue with a homelessness/social justice/crime problems.
You could be advocating spending tons of money finding the few people (average around 1%) of people still receiving a check who have improved enough to work. Although that’s been tried and found to cost about double what it saves.
So instead of moaning and groaning why not tell us your plan?
I’d say that some of the folks on SSDI are on it legitimately. Some others are not. How else do you explain such a massive increase in the number of recipients over a relatively short period of time? True, I’ll bet a lot of these folks would indeed work if they had what they felt was an opportunity, but as you note, jobs are not always plentiful where these people are…and that’s what it is really all about. There are plenty of jobs out there, just go to North Dakota (and not all of them are in the oil patch). But, most people don’t want to do something difficult like picking up and moving.
The SSA knew many years ago they’d be in this position – they got it right down to the year.
Some of the biggest factors? Baby boomers are now 49-67. Late 40s is prime disability age. Now women are in the mix, since the 70s they’ve been getting into the workforce. Add to that the boomers failed to boom! They held off and often wound up never having kids. So now it’s a wider bridge with less abutments. Solution? Raise the cap on the tax.
Then the jobs. Not so very long ago we had lots and lots of blue collar jobs, and they paid very well. When we met 20 years ago my husband was cleaning the courthouse, I was a legal secretary. His pay and bennies beat mine easily. Now we’re 50. He is still cleaning floors, makes less, working 7 days a week, then I receive from SSDI. Sad, huh?
If anything happens to him that he can’t do physical work, he can’t transfer to another job. That’s the biggest problem. Pipe fitters don’t slide easily into being telemarketers, or tellers.
And the fraud is nowhere near what people dream. It’s darn near impossible to get SSDI with one foot in the grave. The biggest problem is the lack of followup because some people do get better, either a cure or the right treatment makes them functional again.
It’s not perfect, but nothing with such a broad scope ever is.
It would be interesting to see an age breakdown of disability recipients. I suspect one factor is that people in their 50s who lose their jobs find it almost impossible to get new ones, especially in New Mexico’s flagging economy. At the same time, it’s become progressively easier to qualify for disability thanks to relaxed government standards and the proliferation of lawyers offering assistance in gaming the system. The result may be that going on disability is an option — perhaps the only option — for many people who would prefer to work but are unable to find jobs.