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December SSDI Applications Lowest Since 2002

2019 January 15
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by Steve Perrigo

The Social Security Administration reported SSDI applications totaled 123,073 in December 2018, which is a low not seen since December 2002 (115,323 applications)—16 years ago.  For the year, 2,073,293 SSDI applications were filed in 2018, down from their peak of 2,935,798 in 2010.

December awards also were low, with 54,186 SSDI claims approved. Monthly award totals have not topped 70,000 since April 2016, and continue a declining trend of more than six years.

The ongoing drop in SSDI applications aligns with forecasts by SSA officials, including the Office of the Chief Actuary, earlier in 2018. This trend was cited by the SSA as one factor in the federal agency’s recent initiative to reinstate the Reconsideration  level of appeal in 10 states beginning this month. Claimants previously “skipped” this level of appeal and proceeded to the hearing level in those states (more details).

In addition, declining applications and a resulting decline in awards have been factors in the extension of the Disability Insurance Trust Fund projected depletion date from 2028 to 2032, according to the 2018 Social Security Board of Trustees report.

Declining Social Security disability applications have been attributed to a number of factors, including an improving economy, the closure of field offices across the U.S., an aging workforce accessing Social Security retirement benefits, and the increasing difficulty of receiving SSDI benefits due to lower approval rates.

 

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