Chart of the Day: Disabilities in Virginia

One in nine Virginians has a disability.

Source: StatChat blog

One in nine Virginians, nearly one million people, has a disability, according to numbers extracted from the 2015 American Consumer Survey by the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia.

The incidence of disability is strongly correlated with age — the elderly suffer a significantly higher rate of disabilities. But hundreds of thousands of the disabled fall into the 35- to 65-year-old age group, accounting for 9.3% of the working-age population. Of those disability_work_statuswith disabilities in the working-age population, most did not work, according to the SnapChat data, but about 44% of them did work full- or part-time jobs.

The snapshot in time is interesting, but not as interesting as the trend lines. As an aging population swells the number of elderly, one would expect an increase in the number of disabled. By contrast, with the decline of hard manual labor and continual advances in medicine, one would expect that the number of disabled in the working-age population would shrink.

But the number of disabled working-age Americans has steadily increased over the years. According to Social Security Administration (SSA) data, 5.3 million Americans were receiving disability benefits in 2001. That number increased relentlessly at a rate of 4% to 6% yearly through 2011. Then the rate of increase began slowing, and the number shrank by half a percent in 2015.

One theory to explain the increasing number of disabled is economic insecurity and unemployment. One might expect people to seek disability benefits during times of economic distress. Yet that is not borne out by the SSA data — there was only a modest increase in the number of disability applications during the recession and its immediate aftermath.


The change that jumps out in this graph is the dramatic fall-off in the increase in Americans receiving disabilities in recent years. Has the “market” been saturated — have so many people been designated as disabled that there’s no one left who remotely qualifies? Alternatively, have the standards changed — has there been some kind of administrative crackdown that received no news coverage? I don’t know. But the change is dramatic, and it deserves an explanation.

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7 responses to “Chart of the Day: Disabilities in Virginia

  1. Need to not confuse “disabilities” of seniors and others with “disabilities” that Social Security will pay benefits for.. they’re not the same.

    But for SSD, maybe has something to do with this:

    Social Security Disability payouts – 146.7 billion
    Social security FICA tax receipts – 118.6 billion
    Social Security Reserves used – 28 billion
    Social Security Reserves remaining – 32 billion
    (see chart entitled: TRUST FUND OPERATIONS, 2015 )

    In other words – the Disability Fund has used up all it’s reserves by 2016 – and unless the law is changed – they cannot pay out any more than FICA tax generates – which is 118.6 billion a year.

    Also don’t confuse “broke/bankrupt with the exhaustion of the “trust fund” – FICA will still continue to generate 118 billion a year – year in , year out.. for as long as FICA tax is collected)

    The law requires SSD to reduce benefits so that it will not pay out any more than it’s revenues.

    Now it could do that in two ways –

    1. – pay benefits to all who qualify – but reduce the amount paid relative to what is supposed to be paid

    OR – AND

    2. – not accept new applications for some kinds of disability

  2. From the Social Security site and SSD sounds pretty tough to qualify for – much harder than other forms of welfare:

    “The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.

    “Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. 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.

    This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.”

  3. Maybe the explanation is the guv now has grown some balls when it comes to admission to disability in light of funding issues. If money isn’t there maybe criteria become more selective (read sensible).

    How about a timeline of total recipients plotted against total population (including illegals, if I’m permitted to use that appellation). Coverage totals are decreasing but TOTAL population is increasing steadily.

    If you really want some answers breakdown by age, sex, and ethnicity as well.

    I won’t hold my breath…

  4. There have been a number of articles and columns discussing the large number of males in the United States who are simply out of the workforce. See for example George Will’s review of Nicholas Eberstadt’s book “Men without Work.”

    It’s a bad trend that needs to stop and become reversed.

  5. the requirements for SSD are some of the tougher for disability. A lot of folks get turned down. But still, at the end of the day, they’ve consumed the surplus they built up and now are paying out what that portion of the FICA brings in – and unlike other entitlements like Medicare and MedicAid- there is no mandatory increase in the funding and they are forced to do some sort of trimming of the benefits to keep the total payouts equal to the amount coming in,

    Congress wants to use that same approach with MedicAid by block-granting it to the states and let the states decide what benefits to provide and how much. MedicCare may well be capped as well and perhaps we’ll go back to where seniors will have to pick up 20% of the costs and Medicare Advantage which is 100% subsidized will go away.

    Once entitlements are capped like Social Security Disability (and Social Security and Medicare Part A) – perhaps we’ll keep the deficit from going up.

    I’m fully expecting the GOP to do what they have been promising… save us from those tax & spend liberals!


  6. I’m not finding any references to real data to back up Eberstadt’s “Men without Work” and subsequent reviews and articles and without them predominately in evidence – I tend to consider such stuff to be broad brush ideology-based conflation… – because at the end of the day -we don’t really know WHO the men are that are not working and I don’t buy that they have “chosen” to not work when they could until I see how that conclusion was arrived at and substantiated.

    I’m betting if you offered them 50K a year to do some kind of paper-shuffling desk work or box stuff coming off a conveyor belt – most would sign on However if you offered them a job shoveling donkey dung 12 hrs a day for 15K a year and they have to fight the boss to get their check, – you’d not get as many to sign up.

    so it’s NOT an issue that they COULD work but have CHOSEN not to.

    and the idea that unemployed able-bodied men – at least in Va , swimming in entitlements, is patently false… if you are an able-bodied man in Va – you’ll not get welfare, you’ll not get MedicAid and I got told the other day that $22 is what you get in food stamps… If someone else knows differently, please correct the record and list out the dollars that unemployed men in Va DO get.

  7. there’s one more important thing not made clear and that is people do not get SSD unless the worked and paid FICA tax into Social Security to start with.

    That kind of explodes the meme that these folks never worked and never wanted to work.

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