The major private U.S. disability insurers paid $7.7 billion in benefits in 2007, up 7% from the 2006 total.

Benefits payments rose 4.3% at the Social Security Disability Insurance program, to $91 billion.

Researchers at the Council for Disability Awareness, Portland, Maine, have published those figures in the CDA’s 2007 Long-Term Disability Claims Review.

The researchers have based the claims review data on government data and a survey of CDA member insurers.

The member insurers account for about 75% of the U.S. commercial disability insurance market, CDA researchers estimate.

Over the past 10 years, the number of U.S. workers with long-term disabilities has grown 4 times more quickly than the U.S. workforce, the CDA researchers report.

In 2007, 560,000 U.S. residents collected private disability benefits, and 7.1 million U.S. residents received SSDI benefits.

Other claims review findings:

- At the SSDI program, the number of workers applying for benefits increased 2.6%, to 2.2 million.

- The average monthly SSDI payment was $1,004.

- The percentage of workers under age 50 who have serious disabilities appears to be rising.

- The disability rate is rising faster for working women than it is for working men.

- Musculoskeletal disorders and connective tissue disorders continue to be the leading causes of long-term disability claims. They account for about 25% of new and existing claims.