Applications for social security disability (SSD) benefits have increased dramatically in the last 15 years. In 2001, 1.498 million people applied for SSD benefits; in 2015, an estimated 2.412 million people submitted applications for either SSDI or SSI – a 62% increase. What has caused the dramatic increase in applications for SSD benefits? There are a number of reasons.


One reason has to do with America’s rapidly changing demographics. As the baby boomer generation ages, so too does their risk of becoming disabled. A person in his 50s is twice as likely to become disabled as someone in his 40s; and a person in her 60s is twice as likely to become disabled versus a 50-year- old. So as the years pass, there is a larger population of people with an increased risk of suffering a disabling injury.

An overall increase in long-term female employment also contributed to the increase. It used to be that women would leave the workforce for good once they married and/or had children. If they were to become disabled later on, their lack of work history prevented them from fulfilling SSDI’s work history requirement. There was no point in submitting an application, regardless of disability, because it would fail to meet the basic criteria for being awarded benefits. But as more and more women began working long-term, the number of them eligible to receive SSDI increased as well, up 50 – 68% from 1980 numbers.

Increased Retirement Age

When the SSA increased the full retirement age (the age at which a person receives full social security benefits), it meant that many workers who retired before reaching that age no longer had a steady source of monthly income. For people born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66; after that, full retirement age increases in increments of two months for each birth year after 1954 until 1960, at which point the full retirement age is 67. Many of these people turned (and are turning) to SSD to fill the gap until they reach full retirement age – 5% of all SSD beneficiaries are aged 65 or 66.


As unemployment rises, opportunities for older workers – especially older disabled workers – decrease, and they are often the last to be hired. Suddenly without an income and unable to find work, they turn to SSD. Yet despite an increase in the number of applications, the percentage of applicants who are approved for SSD benefits has actually been in decline. In 2001, 55.5% of all SSD applications were approved; in 2012, the last year for which complete data is available, that approval rating had dropped to 31.4%.

What impact does the increase in SSD applications have overall? For starters, it has added to the backlog of cases local SSA field offices must examine, which could mean longer wait times before receiving benefits. It also means that having appropriate medical documentation of your disabling condition collected prior to submitting your application is vital to ensure that the claims examiner has all of the relevant information from the get-go. The less work the examiner has to do in terms of requesting additional documentation to support your condition during his review, the better your chance that the application is approved.

Have you applied for Social Security Disability benefits or have you been denied benefits? Consider the law office of Neil H. Good for your representation. Call #(847) 577-4476 or complete this form online for a free case evaluation.