After 35 years of steady growth, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) rates are expected to drop for Ohioans and the rest of the country. However, this may not guarantee a rosy future for SSDI recipients or applicants according to a recently-released report from the Social Security Trustees.

The large increase in Social Security Disability (SSD) payments over the last 35 years had three causes. Laws enacted in 1984 were the first reason. Congress expanded the definition of disability and granted greater participation in the decision-making process on eligibility and benefits to applicants and health-care providers.

An aging population was the second cause. Applicants who were part of the baby boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, suffered higher disability incidence rates by just growing older after the 1984 SSD reforms.

Finally, there was an increase in female participation in the workforce whose work history made them eligible for benefits. As they grew older, they also experienced disability incidents.

The Social Security Trustees’ 2018 report showed that disability rates have declined, though. The stock of beneficiaries dropped for the third consecutive year. If this continues, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) program costs will also drop.

This drop was attributed to the expectation that the three causes of the 35-year rise in disability rates will not occur again. The aging of the workforce has slowed down as baby boom generation workers are retiring and participation of women in the workforce is not rising.

Since 2000, the fraction of all disability insurance benefits also dropped. The Great Recession was like other economic downturns and contributed to this drop by depressing allowance rates. However, the increasingly stringent decision-making process for granting eligibility and benefits also played a role in this decline.

But, there is some bad news in addition to the SSA’s tougher decision-making process. The Trustees did not change their earlier projections of a 75-year deficit of 2.84 percent of payroll. The trust fund depletion date is anticipated in 2034. Also, the Trustees did not revise their major assumption that the disability insurance incidence rate will continue to grow.

Social Security Disability applicants or current beneficiaries may need legal representation to assure that changes to the hearing process and possible deficits do not harm their rights to benefits. A lawyer may also help assure that they comply with changing standards and eligibility requirements.