Unemployment is down, according to the official numbers, yet more people than ever are not working. What are they doing instead? The New York Post reports that an astonishing number of them are classifying themselves as disabled in order to continue receiving government benefits:
Standing too many months on the unemployment line is driving Americans crazy — literally — and it’s costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
With their unemployment-insurance checks running out, some of the country’s long-term jobless are scrambling to fill the gap by filing claims for mental illness and other disabilities with Social Security — a surge that hobbles taxpayers and making the employment rate look healthier than it should as these people drop out of the job statistics. …
As of January, the federal government was mailing out disability checks to more than 10.5 million individuals, including 2 million to spouses and children of disabled workers, at a cost of record $200 billion a year, recent research from JPMorgan Chase shows.
The sputtering economy has fueled those ranks. Around 5.3 percent of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 is currently collecting federal disability payments, a jump from 4.5 percent since the economy slid into a recession.
Mental-illness claims, in particular, are surging. During the recent economic boom, only 33 percent of applicants were claiming mental illness, but that figure has jumped to 43 percent, says Rutledge, citing preliminary results from his latest research. …
The jump in successful disability claims also is making the unemployment picture look extra rosy because those folks are falling off the jobless rolls.
“If they’re on disability they’re generally not counted,” says Feroli, who estimates that a quarter of those dropping out of the job market are getting disability. “It’s no trivial number.”
That last statistic is remarkable: a quarter of those who are dropping out of the job market, and hence out of the unemployment statistics, are going on disability instead. Disability, unlike unemployment benefits, will most likely go on forever. So this is one more way in which Obama is making the U.S. more like Europe–Scandinavia, in particular, where large numbers of seemingly able-bodied individuals live much of their adult lives on disability benefits.