Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2004

Benefits Awarded, Withheld, and Terminated

Awards to Disabled Beneficiaries and Nondisabled Dependents

Chart 7. Social Security disability awards, 1980–2004

The total number of awards decreased from 1980 through 1982, started to rise in 1983, and began to increase more rapidly in 1990. Awards for disabled-worker benefits have been most pronounced and drive the overall pattern shown in the total line. They increased from a low of 297,131 in 1982 to 636,637 in 1992, were relatively flat from 1992 through 2000, and started to increase again in 2001. There were 775,244 worker awards in 2004. Other awards have risen at a much slower rate. Awards to disabled adult children have gradually increased from 33,470 in 1980 to 51,833 in 2004. Awards to disabled widow(er)s have risen from just over 16,000 in 1980 to 27,744 in 2004.

Line chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: Table 31.
Chart 8. Average monthly benefit awards, by sex, 2004

Average monthly benefits for new awards tend to be higher than those paid to beneficiaries who are already on the rolls (see Chart 5). The exception is payments to newly awarded adult children, whose benefits are slightly lower than those paid to adult children who are already on the rolls.

The average monthly benefit awarded to disabled workers is higher than that awarded to disabled widow(er)s or disabled adult children. The reason for the difference is that disabled workers receive 100 percent of the primary insurance amount, compared with 71.5 percent for disabled widow(er)s and 50 percent for disabled adult children (if the worker is disabled or retired) or 75 percent (if the worker is deceased).

Because men have traditionally had higher earnings than women, their monthly benefit is higher. This is most obvious in the disabled-worker group. Benefits for disabled widow(er)s and disabled adult children are dependents' benefits, so their monthly benefit is a function of the worker's earnings. Therefore, a disabled widow's average benefit tends to be higher than that of a disabled widower because a male worker's earnings are higher than a female worker's. Benefit amounts are about the same for men and women in the disabled adult children group.

Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: Table 32.
Chart 9. Disabled-worker awards, by selected diagnostic group, 2004

In 2004, 775,244 disabled workers were awarded benefits. The primary impairment group was diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (27.1 percent), 24.9 percent had a mental disorder, 11.0 percent had circulatory problems, 9.5 percent had neoplasms, 8.3 percent had a disease of the nervous system and sense organs, and 19.1 percent had other impairments.

Pie chart described in previous paragraph.
SOURCE: Table 33.
NOTE: Percentages do not add to 100 because of rounding.