June 24, 2010

Disability Rates Increase, Highest Among 50-59-Year-Olds

A new survey from the Council for Disability Awareness found that while the number of disabled people received benefits has increased every year since 2004, the number of new claimants has actually gone down. Just 141,000 claimants were approved for disability benefits in 2009, down 1 percent from the year before. The study attributes this drop to fewer insured lives as a result of rampant unemployment rather than a healthier population.

A report from AARP shows the unemployment rate for older workers is still increasing, even as it falls overall. Over 7 percent of workers 55 or older were out of work in May, according to the AARP report, or about 2.1 million people. That's 52,000 more than in April.

The percentage of new long-term disability claims among 50-59-year-olds held steady from 2008 to 2009 at 35 percent, but outstripped any other age group. Individuals between 40 and 49 saw a decrease in disability claims.

The leading cause of disability is still musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. Over 26 percent of new claims and 28.5 percent of existing claims are for neck and back pain or joint, muscle and tendon disorders. Cancer is the second leading cause of new claims (15.3 percent). Cardiovascular problems are the third leading cause of new claims, and increased slightly after three years of declines.

When asked about their predictions for the next 12 months, half of companies said they don't expect any significant impact. Forty-four percent of respondents said they expect an increase in incidence, although the survey notes that no company indicated a significant spike. The most frequently mentioned concerns are unsurprising: uncertainty in the economy; the regulatory environment; and the residual impact of health care reform.

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