There has been a steady drop in the number of people on Social Security disability benefits since 2014. That drop has become even more significant since the pandemic. A move away from manual labour towards more sedentary jobs means fewer workers suffer from the kind of physical injuries that might result in a disability. Also, better access to healthcare as a result of the Affordable Care Act allows many people suffering a disability the medical treatment necessary to recover and to ultimately return to work.
However, the drop seems to have become even more significant since the pandemic. As many as 80% of the people who died in the pandemic were above the age of 65. The pandemic also resulted in many people accelerating their plans for retirement. That resulted in fewer people dependent on disability benefits. However, the most compelling reason for the drop in beneficiaries could be that many applicants were simply unable to apply for the benefits as a result of closure of Social Security field offices across Georgia and the rest of the country.
Finally, approval rates of administrative law judges have dropped from 57% approval in 2009 to 49% approval in 2019. The process of monitoring the judges’ decisions has become stricter which has meant a lowered approval rate. Thus, the process for approval is harder and often requires hiring an attorney.