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Number of people on Social Security disability levels off

The number of people receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration has been increasing for years. Since 2004, the number has risen 42 percent. The sharp rise in people receiving benefits created worry among lawmakers and those interested in policy and spurred talk of reforming the benefits program.

Now, though, the number of people receiving the benefits has leveled off. In March 2013, the number of people who receive monthly Social Security disability benefits reached 10,939,936 million and has remained at around that level for the past year. In December 2013, the number of people receiving benefits reached 10,988,269 million. In March 2014, the number of recipients was 10,981,423.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is one of the government’s largest entitlement plans, paying out close to $140 billion in benefits each year. Some budget watchers estimate that the benefits program could exhaust its trust fund reserves in 2016 or 2017.

Given that situation, leveling off in the number of applicants is good news. But as a Washington Post story notes, it’s unclear if the number of recipients in the program has actually peaked.

For people who are applying for SSDI benefits, news of the record numbers of people receiving benefits and potential problems with funding the program can be worrying. People who are unable to work due to a medical impairment should know that the application and appeals process remains the same regardless of how many people apply or receive benefits. The standards for qualifying for benefits continue to be challenging for many applicants.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Has Social Security Disability Enrollment Hit Plateau?” Damian Paletta and Josh Zumbrun, April 16, 2014

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