The PJ Tatler

Is Social Security Disability the New Normal?

Powerline blog has a post up entitled “Obama is Driving us Crazy” (via Instapundit) about the surge in the Social Security Disability claims for mental illness:

Unemployment is down, according to the official numbers, yet more people than ever are not working. What are they doing instead? The New York Post reports that an astonishing number of them are classifying themselves as disabled in order to continue receiving government benefits:

Mental-illness claims, in particular, are surging. During the recent economic boom, only 33 percent of applicants were claiming mental illness, but that figure has jumped to 43 percent, says Rutledge, citing preliminary results from his latest research. …

That last statistic is remarkable: a quarter of those who are dropping out of the job market, and hence out of the unemployment statistics, are going on disability instead. Disability, unlike unemployment benefits, will most likely go on forever.

I worked as a consultant doing disability mental evaluations for over 15 years (I no longer do) and one thing I can say is that claimants would often come in and claim mental stress if they just felt “worn out from working.” A nurse came in once and said that she just “couldn’t take it anymore” and was applying. She didn’t understand that just saying you’ve “had it,” didn’t qualify one for Social Security disability. However, the rules change and perhaps with the Obama economy, having “had it” is enough to qualify for some type of mental illness, especially given the jump in the awards of benefits for mental reasons since the recession. Maybe this is the new way the Obama administration is trying to “spread the wealth around” in a way that the average American will not notice. And it brings the unemployment rate down at the same time. A real win-win for the administration.