Report: Disability Applications Plunge amid Strong Economy

Even with the US economy in its eighth year of recovery, and solid hiring pushing the unemployment rate to a 17-year low, wage gains have been far more sluggish than expected. This file photo taken on July 7, 2017 shows a sign at a Miami business
GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File JOE RAEDLE

The number of Americans filing for disability benefits is dropping to record-low levels, according to a recent report.

The New York Times reported that fewer than 1.5 million people filed for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration last year, and the agency said the number of applications it had received fell to its lowest level since 2002.

Government officials say the number of disability applications is falling even further this year, and it might be due to the strength of the economy.

The decrease in applications also stems from revised eligibility requirements and baby boomers getting off disability because they qualify for Medicare and Social Security retirement benefits.

The agency says it had to revise its estimates of how long the program would continue to be financially solvent because of the significance of the drop.

The federal government announced this month the program would have enough money to run through 2032, four years later than last year’s estimate. In 2016, the government said funds for Social Security would run out by 2023.

As Social Security disability applications fall, those already on Social Security got more money out of their checks. The agency announced in October that benefit recipients would see their paychecks increase by two percent to offset rising living costs.

Meanwhile, some employees within the Social Security Agency have been accused of stealing benefits from dead people. One Social Security employee was arrested this month for allegedly committing $680,000 worth of Social Security fraud by stealing benefits from deceased recipients.

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