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14 million people who don't show up in most of the numbers
Old 03-24-2013, 01:56 PM   #1
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14 million people who don't show up in most of the numbers

14,000,000 is a darn big number. Who knew that all of these disabled, unemployed folks do not affect the national economic stats? Man, diabetes is really a prolific disease is it not?

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Source: Social Security Administration
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR




We're an economics show. We cover the economy. But it's come to our attention that, until now, we've missed one of the biggest stories in our economy: The startling rise in the number of people on federal disability programs.
It's the story of 14 million people who don't show up in most of the numbers we look at to understand the economy. These 14 million Americans don't have jobs, but they don't show up in any of the unemployment measures that we use. They receive federal assistance, but are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net.
Episode 446: The Invisible 14 Million : Planet Money : NPR
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:05 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by mickeyd View Post
14,000,000 is a darn big number. Who knew that all of these disabled, unemployed folks do not affect the national economic stats? Man, diabetes is really a prolific disease is it not?

My guess is it will stay as the topmost line for years, and draw heart disease upward with it [ 70+% of diabetics die of heart disease].
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:06 PM   #3
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Missing the boat here - have back pain, probably developmental disabilities (infantile sense of humor), heart disease, a sprained finger, and all kinds of other. If it weren't for having to deal with the government I'd be all over the assistance money. ( for the humor impaired: there are many who deserve assistance and as people we should aid them)
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:44 PM   #4
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:23 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by mickeyd View Post
14,000,000 is a darn big number. Who knew that all of these disabled, unemployed folks do not affect the national economic stats? Man, diabetes is really a prolific disease is it not?



Episode 446: The Invisible 14 Million : Planet Money : NPR
You are reading the chart wrong. It is all about the thickness of the lines, not the order top to bottom.

The Diabetes is JUST the 2nd band, which has not really varied in thickness over the years. The biggest growth has been in thetwo bottom blue layers - back pain and mental illness. Heart disease took a spike in the mid 70's, declined in the early 80's and has slightly grown since.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:32 PM   #6
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I've noticed that on daytime TV, half the ads are for lawyers that will get you your SSI payments. I don't know if the increase is legitimate or not.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:45 PM   #7
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@AWeinel,

Thanks for the chart explanation, I had it wrong as well.
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Old 03-24-2013, 03:45 PM   #8
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You are reading the chart wrong. It is all about the thickness of the lines, not the order top to bottom.

The Diabetes is JUST the 2nd band, which has not really varied in thickness over the years. The biggest growth has been in thetwo bottom blue layers - back pain and mental illness. Heart disease took a spike in the mid 70's, declined in the early 80's and has slightly grown since.

Thanks for pointing that out AWeinel. After listening to the audio again and looking @ the chart thru your eyes, looks like diabetes is not as bad as I suspected.
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Old 03-24-2013, 05:12 PM   #9
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On explanation for increasing disability rolls is that folks with various conditions are living longer.
Including lawyers
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Old 03-24-2013, 05:48 PM   #10
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SSI is a mission creep of Social Security abused by numerous dubious and fraudulent claims.
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Old 03-24-2013, 06:40 PM   #11
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Doesn't the spike suspiciously co-inside with the downturn in the economy, or is it just my imagination?
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Old 03-24-2013, 07:01 PM   #12
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Roughly 1/3 of disability applications are approved on the first attempt. There has been a spike in disability cases as people laid off from jobs they could do were unable to find accessible work.
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Old 03-24-2013, 08:04 PM   #13
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Doesn't the spike suspiciously co-inside with the downturn in the economy, or is it just my imagination?

No it is not your imagination. Not surprisingly a large number of folks who lost their jobs and could not find work, found lawyers who helped them discover conditions like the hard-to-prove back injuries and mental stress. The lawyers help them file disabilities claims with social security department.

This in turn has caused the social security disability fund to become severely underfunded. IIRC SDI will be out of money before the end of the decade.
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Old 03-24-2013, 10:51 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by AWeinel View Post
You are reading the chart wrong. It is all about the thickness of the lines, not the order top to bottom.

The Diabetes is JUST the 2nd band, which has not really varied in thickness over the years. The biggest growth has been in thetwo bottom blue layers - back pain and mental illness. Heart disease took a spike in the mid 70's, declined in the early 80's and has slightly grown since.
Plus, isn't the chart just a list of people who are on disability with these conditions? I believe that there are 18-25 million people with diabetes, but only a small proportion are on disability. The chart doesn't speak to the number of people with a condition, just to the number on disability. Which would explain why back pain is so high. It's easier to fake, and disability can make for a good income. Not saying they are all faking, but to have the numbers jump so high? Of course, obesity can lead to back pain and other musculoskeletal issues, and that's been growing over the same period. So who knows the real reasons?
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Old 03-25-2013, 06:55 AM   #15
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looks like diabetes is not as bad as I suspected.
Plenty bad, and a very worrying trend.
Diagnosed diabetes among adults over 18, US median (CDC numbers):
1995: 4.5%
2000: 6.0%
2005: 7.2%
2010: 8.2%
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Old 03-25-2013, 08:26 AM   #16
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With a population of about 300 million, the 14 million number is about 4.6% of the population. Last year, within my group of 15 college student employees plus myself, there were parents or spouses with multiple sclerosis, early onset parkinsons, schizophrenia, plus a very rare disease (I forget the name)affecting potassium retention.

States have agencies looking to move people to disabilty as it is paid by the federal government. My daughter does legal aid work and the greatest problem among poor people is a lack of medical records diagnosing pretty obvious problems. They can't afford travel to doctors nor can they pay for the doctor, they tend to move and not keep records.

Also, you don't get rich on disability payments, as one of my students parents gets to pick which bill isn't paid some months.

Diclosure - my wife is the one with MS, let tell you how exciting at age 51 it is to shop for power scooters. Or to spend the equivalent of a damn nice car payment on out of pocket costs.
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Old 03-25-2013, 09:19 AM   #17
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True, but I also work in a software development group of about 30 people, of whom six had serious back issues that required special chairs, surgery and all sorts of accommodation to avoid sitting for long periods of time. They were pretty driven folks and stayed employed despite their issues, and have remained employed for the last ten years we have been in touch despite layoffs, job searches and the occasional company failure that put most of them out of work for a time. Any of them could likely have been approved for disability, but none of them ever tried for it as far as I know and they are all still employed.

Personal anecdotes don't make reliable data, but it's probably pretty hard to tease out the idea of people faking disabilities from these numbers when so much depends on individual circumstance. If any of the back problem people I worked with had decided to stop pushing so hard, they would likely have had a very legitimate case for disability. Probably there are others like them who did. Back pain may be hard to measure, but it can be a genuine cause of disability.
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Old 03-25-2013, 09:31 AM   #18
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It is possible that many employed people qualify for disability but choose to continue working. Some may find that if they lose their jobs they are unable to find new employment because of their ailments or just because of their age. Disability is not the preferred option, it is the only one remaining.
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Old 03-25-2013, 10:19 AM   #19
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It is possible that many employed people qualify for disability but choose to continue working. Some may find that if they lose their jobs they are unable to find new employment because of their ailments or just because of their age. Disability is not the preferred option, it is the only one remaining.

That is what I was thinking also. Most people like to work, not only for the paycheck, but because most people like to do constructive activities, have the social interaction, maybe have a medical plan from work, have a sense of purpose, etc. Dealing with the a state or federal bureaucracy is no fun, can take up nearly as much time as working at a job, and lowers self-esteem. But to not be destitute, people will file for disability.
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:12 PM   #20
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No problem with those legitimately on disability being taken care of, HOWEVER disability fraud is a huge problem that hurts everyone-inc those with legitimate disability claims.
CDI: Preventing Social Security Disability Fraud | Office of the Inspector General, SSA
And some of these fraudsters are outrageous-like this guy who was running marathons while on disability for back injury:
Marathon runner on disability fired from corrections department - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

And not just a problem in US either-
Factcheck: Disability benefit: How much does fraud and error cost? | Full Fact
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