The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives recently published an article highlighting the significant decrease in the number of Social Security disability applications in the past few years. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article:
Applications for SSI disability benefits and SSDI disabled worker benefits have decreased each year since a peak in 2010. Although statistics about 2017’s SSI applications will not be available until late next year, it appears that the decline continued for SSDI applications in 2017. If people apply for SSDI disabled worker benefits at the same rate in December 2017 as they did throughout the rest of the year, there will have been about 2.17 million initial applications in 2017. This is a 6.4% decrease from 2016, and a 26% decrease from the peak in 2010. Since December typically sees fewer applications than other months, the decline is likely even more pronounced.
The decrease in requests for hearings is even more pronounced than the decline in initial applications. There were 698,579 requests for ALJ hearing in Fiscal Year 2016 and 620,977 in Fiscal Year 2017. Despite this 11% drop, the number of cases pending decreased by less than 6% that year. The decline in hearing requests looks to be continuing into Fiscal Year 2018. Hearing requests were 7.5% lower in the first two months of the current fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2017, than over the same period the year before.
Some of the decrease in applications may be due to baby boomers aging from disability-prone years to eligibility for full retirement benefits. Low unemployment may also make some employers more willing to accommodate workers with disabilities. These factors may also play into why some claimants choose not to appeal denials, though there are undoubtedly other factors, including the long wait times for ALJ hearings.