This Chart: Social Security Disability ‘Crisis’ Might Already Be Over

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February 12, 2015 10:54 a.m.

One of the central arguments that liberals are deploying against the stated Republican intention to pursue Social Security changes this Congress is that the “crisis” that conservatives are seizing on has already passed.

House Republicans passed a rule last month blocking the transfer of tax revenue between Social Security’s retirement and disability funds, which has been done multiple times in the past, unless the program’s overall solvency is improved. The latter fund is expected to be unable to pay full benefits starting in 2016.

Conservative have made clear their intent is to pursue changes, either to the disability fund alone or Social Security more broadly. But the liberal counter is that there is no crisis. The demographic and economic trends that have put the disability fund in jeopardy in late 2016 have passed. Transferring revenue from the retirement fund to the disability fund would keep both programs fully funded until 2033. That knocks just one year of full solvency off the retirement program, while giving 17 additional years to the disability fund.

As evidence, the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published the above chart, tracking the slowing growth of Social Security disability rolls.

“In recent months, growth in the number of DI beneficiaries has slowed to its lowest rate in 25 years,” the center’s analysts wrote.

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