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Geographic Patterns In Social Security Disability Recipients

Posted by Louis B. Lusk | Jan 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Geographic Patterns In Social Security Disability Recipients

Social Security Disability (SSD) has been in the news a lot lately. From questions about when the SSD trust fund will run out of money, to how much money SSD recipients will lose if nothing is done about the trust fund. Congress has also focused on how many SSD applications are granted by administrative law judges. Now the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has issued a report showing geographic patterns in SSD payments.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report

The CBPP looked at a variety of factors affecting those who apply for and receive SSD.

While there are SSD recipients in every state and county of the country, the CBPP report found a “ ‘geography of disability.' Some states, chiefly in the South and Appalachia, have much higher rates of [SSD] receipt – nearly twice the national average.” While this may look like evidence of problems with the SSD system, the CBPP points out that “it mostly reflects a few key demographic and economic factors.  States with high rates of disability receipt tend to have populations that are less educated, older, and more blue-collar than other states; they also have fewer immigrants. Those four factors are directly or indirectly related to the program's eligibility criteria.”


The CBPP points out that education is a major factor in determining an area's disability rate. “States with low rates of high-school completion generally have high rates of disability receipt.” The SSD application requires the individual to list their previous work history and explain how they can no longer do that work. The Social Security Administration will determine if the applicant can do other, less demanding work. “That adjustment is harder, or even impossible, for severely impaired people with limited education. People without a college degree – and especially those who didn't finish high school – are far more likely to collect SSD.”


Our general population is aging. “The risk of disability rises sharply with age; the older people become, the more likely they are to develop a disabling condition.” The CBPP points out that “70 percent [of SSD recipients] are over 50, and 30 percent are 60 or older.”

Immigration Status

Immigrants, especially recent arrivals, are far less likely than native-born citizens to collect disability benefits. [This is] largely a consequence of program rules. SSD generally requires applicants to have worked in the United States for at least one-fourth of their adult lives and five of the last ten years, a high bar for recent immigrants.” Congress changed the law in 1996 to require immigrants to become naturalized citizens and work for ten years before they could become eligible for SSD benefits.

Industry-based Economy

States where much of the workforce is employed in forestry, certain types of mining, utilities, construction, and manufacturing – such as the industrial Midwest and many southern and Appalachian states – tend to have more disability recipients than states with more service-oriented economies, all else being equal. Such jobs are often physically demanding and involve skills that don't transfer readily to other, less arduous types of work.”

While the four factors the CBPP report covers explain most of the variations in SSD, it does not mean that other factors are not involved. This report looks at state SSD rates as a whole for each state and does not break up SSD receipts by county or region.

If you are getting ready to apply for SSD benefits, having an attorney on your side to keep track of all the necessary paperwork can be helpful. Contact our experienced attorney to assist you with your application.

About the Author

Louis B. Lusk

About Louis B. Lusk – Disability Attorney Attorney Louis B. Lusk has helped thousands of disabled individuals recover Social Security disability and SSI disability benefits.  He is an active member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant's Representatives (NOSSCR), an organizat...


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