American States With The Most People On Disability

Modern Social Security card.

Modern Social Security card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of Americans receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) more-than doubled over the past two decades, from 5.2 million to 11.7 million by the end of 2011.

The number of residents receiving disability insurance from the

Social Security Administration (SSA) varies from state to state. In West

Virginia, close to one in every 10 people aged 18 to 64 was receiving

SSDI benefits from the federal government, more than three times the

rate in states like Utah and Alaska.

The proportion of eligible workers applying for disability benefits

also has doubled in the past 10 years, according to the SSA. Two main

reasons are driving the increase, explains The National Association of

Social Security Claimants’ Representatives. First, baby boomers are

entering years in which they are more prone to disability. Second, women

who began to work in greater numbers in the 1970s and 1980s are also

now eligible for disability through Social Security for the first time.

However, changing demographics only partially explain the increase.

Tad DeHaven, budget analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think

tank, explained that the recession played a major role in the growth in

disability claims. “When you see unemployment rates rising, you see

disability moving with it,” DeHaven noted.

In fact, states with the highest disability claims tend to have the

highest poverty rates and the fewest jobs offering competitive wages.

Seven of the 10 states with the most residents receiving disability have

among the highest poverty rates in the country. The number of jobs in

these states in manufacturing and retail, which tend to pay modest

wages, are above the national average. Meanwhile, jobs in finance and professional occupations are scarce.

While it is true that disability claims rise when the economy is in

trouble, disability claims also skew the unemployment rate. The vast

majority of disability claimants do not work and are therefore not

counted as part of the labor force, which the government uses to

calculate unemployment. Of the 10 states with highest proportion of 18

to 64 year olds on Social Security disability, seven have among the

lowest labor force participation rates in the country. Unemployment

rates in these states, six of which are already above the national

average, would be even higher if those on disability were counted.

In principle, the reason Americans apply for disability is because

their health prevents them from working. A review of a recent

Gallup-Healthways survey shows that nearly these states with the highest

rates of disability are in the top 10 for serious conditions, including

heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension and recurring knee, leg and back

pain. West Virginia, the state with the highest disability rate, had

either the highest or the second-highest rate in the country for all of

these conditions.

Residents in these states find it hard to get a job that will pay

much more than disability with their work experience, education and

health condition, explained Gary Burtless, economist and senior fellow

at the Brookings Institution. “In states like Alabama and West

Virginia,” Burtless said, “lots of the workers are going to be in

occupations where the next job they obtain — if they do stick it out and

work through the pain and the disability — is one that is going to pay

considerably less than the last job that they held.”

To determine the 10 states with the most residents getting disability

benefits, 24/7 Wall St. relied on figures published by the Social

Security Administration in its Annual Statistical Report on the Social

Security Disability Insurance Program for December 2011, the most recent

available data. We only considered the number of claimants and average

payment from the SSA. Unlike SSA, Supplemental Security Income, another

federal disability program, provides financial support to low-income

residents, children and senior citizens, regardless of work history.

Statistics on labor force participation and average annual unemployment

rates were provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2011. Figures

for the percentage of residents suffering from a specific disease or

condition are from the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. Education,

income and poverty statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau.

These are the states with the most Americans on disability.

10. Michigan

> Pct. receiving disability benefits: 6.0%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 32.3% (12th highest)

> 2011 labor force participation: 60.3% (7th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment: 10.4% (tied for 6th highest)

At the end of 2011, disabled workers in Michigan received in total $390 million a month from SSDI,

more than all but five other states. The state not only had a

relatively high number of disabled workers, but also paid them more than

most states. On average, disabled workers in Michigan received $1,166

per month in December 2011 from SSDI, more than in all but three other

states. Nearly 23% of these recipients received more than $1,600 per

month from the program, more than anywhere in the country except New

Jersey. Between 2006 and 2011, Michigan’s labor force participation rate

declined by five percentage points, from 65.3% to just 60.3% of the

population.

9. Missouri

> Pct. receiving disability benefits: 6.1%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 30.5% (24th lowest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 65.0% (25th highest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 8.4% (22nd highest)

Missouri had an average unemployment rate of 8.4% in 2011, lower than

the nationwide rate of 8.9%. Many jobless adults were actively seeking a

job, a fact that qualifies them received Medicaid or Temporary

Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Still, Missouri was contemplating a

welfare transfer program that would move Medicaid and TANF recipients–

who must be be employed or taking steps towards employment — onto

federal disability programs. To assist in implementing the plan,

Missouri would hire

Public Consulting Group, which touts its ability to improve the rate at

which states’ residents are approved for disability benefits. Opponents

of the plan say the initiative would trap families in poverty.

8. South Carolina

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 6.3%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 30.1% (20th lowest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 60.0% (6th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 10.4% (tied for 6th highest)

South Carolina had one of the nation’s highest poverty rates in 2011,

when nearly 19% of the population lived below the poverty line. It also

had one of the nation’s lowest median annual household incomes, at just

over $42,000. South Carolina not only had one of the nation’s highest

average unemployment rates in 2011, but also one of the lowest labor

force participation rate (unemployed workers actively seeking a job).

Meanwhile, few other states had a larger percentage of workers receiving

SSDI benefits, which does not require recipients to actively look for a

job. State residents were among the most likely to attribute their disability

to diseases affecting the musculoskeletal and circulatory systems, such

as back pain. South Carolina residents were among the most likely to

have high cholesterol or blood pressure, or to have been diagnosed with

diabetes in 2012.

7. Tennessee

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 6.5%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 32.4% (11th highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 62.7% (16th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 9.3% (15th highest)

Tennessee had more than 260,000 Social Security disability

beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 64 as of the end of 2011. As a

result, disabled workers in the state received a total of $261.5

million in December 2011 from SSDI. Beneficiaries in Tennessee were

among the most likely in the nation to receive benefits due to diseases

of the circulatory system. According to a Gallup-Healthways survey,

state residents were among the most likely in the nation to have

diabetes or high cholesterol or to have had a heart attack in 2012.

6. Maine

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 7.4%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 33.0% (10th highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 65.2% (24th highest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 7.7% (22nd lowest)

Although a large percentage of Maine residents received SSDI benefits

in December 2011, the typical payment was limited. The monthly disability benefit

in Maine was just $1,030 on average, the lowest in the nation. Just

11.5% of those with benefits received at least $1,600, the lowest

proportion in the nation and well below the 17.2% nationwide that

December. More than 43% of residents who received disability at the end

of 2011 were diagnosed as disabled due to a mental disorder, one of the

highest in the nation and well above the 35.8% average for all areas.

5. Mississippi

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 7.7%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 30.3% (23rd lowest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 59.6% (4th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 10.5% (4th highest)

Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in 2011 with 22.6% of

residents living below the poverty line. Additionally, the state’s

median annual household income that year was the lowest in the nation at

slightly less than $37,000. Many residents could not find a job even if

they were actively looking. In 2011, Mississippi’s average unemployment

rate was the nation’s fourth highest. Additionally, a mere 59.6% of the

population participated in the workforce as of 2011, the fourth lowest

percentage of all states. Potentially related to the state’s high levels

of poverty, as well as obesity, 11.3% of SSDI beneficiaries suffered

from a circulatory system disease in December 2011. This was the highest

of any state, and well above the 7.7% of beneficiaries nationally.

Also Read: Workers Taking the Most Sick Days

4. Kentucky

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 8.1%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 34.8% (5th highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 61.5% (10th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 9.5% (12th highest)

More than 19% of Kentucky’s population lived in poverty in 2011, a

higher percentage than all but four states. Many people in Kentucky may

not have the means to get well-paying work. Just 83.1% of people have at

least a high school diploma, the sixth lowest percentage of all states.

Meanwhile, just 21.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the

fifth lowest percentage of all states. As of 2011, just 61.5% of

Kentuckians were considered to be in the labor force, among the lowest

rates in the nation. In a well-publicized case, a Kentucky judge, David

Daugherty, was accused in a civil suit filed in February of improperly

approving Social Security benefits in order to help local attorney Eric

Conn, arguably the most prominent disability lawyer in the region,

receive millions of dollars from the federal government for handling these cases.

3. Alabama

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 8.1%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 34.6% (6th highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 58.5% (2nd lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 8.7% (19th highest)

Alabama was one of the nation’s poorest states as of 2011, with a

median annual income of just $41,415. Additionally, educational

attainment in the state was limited, with just 82.7% of all residents

holding a high school diploma and just 22.3% a college

degree in 2011. That year, the state’s average unemployment rate was

8.7%, slightly lower than the U.S. average rate of 8.9% for the year.

However, just 58.5% of the population participated in the labor force as

of 2011, lower than all states except for West Virginia. In December

2011, SSDI recipients in Alabama were far more likely to receive

payments due to diseases of the circulatory system or the

musculoskeletal system than recipients in the large majority of other

states. Alabamians were among the most likely Americans surveyed in 2012

to state they had experienced a heart attack or were diabetic.

2. Arkansas

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 8.2%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 36.1% (2nd highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 60.4% (8th lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 7.9% (24th lowest)

In 2011, the median annual income

in Arkansas was just $38,758, the third lowest of all states in the

United States. Arkansas is also among the least educated states in the

country. Workers with limited education and who are out of work

generally have a harder time getting back to work. For instance, just

20.3% of Arkansas residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than

all but two other states. An estimated 31.6% of SSDI recipients in

Arkansas had musculoskeletal system disease in December 2011, more than

any other state except for Alabama. Meanwhile, more than 9% of

recipients had diseases involving the circulatory system, higher than

all but six other states.

1. West Virginia

> Pct. of working age population with benefits: 9.0%

> Pct. with recurring neck and back pain: 39.0% (the highest)

> 2011 labor force participation rate: 54.1% (the lowest)

> 2011 unemployment rate: 7.8% (23rd lowest)

No state had a higher percentage of working age people receiving SSDI

benefits than West Virginia. In addition, the benefits received from by

the federal government were more generous compared to most states. The

average monthly benefit of more than $1,140 in 2011 was the 10th highest

of all states. Almost 21% of recipients received monthly benefits of at

least $1,600, a higher percentage than all but three states. Like most

states on this list, West Virginia is among the less-educated states in

the country. Just 18.5% of the adult population had a bachelor’s degree,

the lowest percentage of all states. Also, few residents in the state

had jobs. Just 54.1% of residents were considered part of the labor

force in 2011, by far the lowest percentage of any state in the nation.

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Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “American States With The Most People On Disability

  1. In the fiscal year that ended in September, Administrative Law Judge David B. Daugherty, who sits in the impoverished intersection of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four. For the first six months of fiscal 2011, Mr. Daugherty approved payments in every one of his 729 decisions, according to the Social Security Administration. Mr. Daugherty, 75 years old, processes more cases than all but three judges in the U.S. He has a wry view of his less-generous peers. “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away,” Mr. Daugherty told a fellow Huntington judge, Algernon Tinsley, who worked in the same office until last year.

  2. Judge David B. Daugherty said every decision he makes “is fully supported by relevant medical reports and physical and/or mental residual functionary capacity assessments from treating or examining doctors or other medical professionals.” Mr. Daugherty became a Social Security judge in 1990 after serving as an elected Cabell County circuit court judge during he 1970s and 1980s. Born and raised in Huntington, he introduces himself as “D.B.”. “He is a very, very well respected man in the community,” said Nancy Cartmill, president of the Cabell County Commission. “He’s been there for years.”
    In 2005, he reached 955 decisions, approving benefits in 90% of the cases. From 2006 through 2008, he decided 3,645 cases, approving benefits roughly 95% of the time. In the 2009 year, at 99.7%, he had one of the highest award rates in the country; and maintained the same pace in 2010 and 2011, according to agency statistics.

  3. Administrative Law Judge David B. Daugherty blamed high poverty rates especially in Eastern Kentucky for his large case load and high approval rate.
    “People would really be surprised at how little education those people have,” he said. “If they have a fourth-grade education, they couldn’t get a job if their lives depended on it.”

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