1.3 Million Got Disability for ‘Mood Disorders’—Including 33% of Beneficiaries in Puerto Rico

Terence P. Jeffrey | August 24, 2012 | 2:17pm EDT
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A beach in Puerto Rico (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Social Security Administration released its annual statistical report on federal disability insurance last month, revealing that at the end of 2011 there was a then-record of 8,575,544 workers collecting federal disability benefits and among them were 1,304,851 doing so because they suffered from “mood disorders.”

The incidence of “mood disorders” among disability beneficiaries was not proportionately distributed among the states and territories, according to the official SSA statistics. Some locations had much higher percentages of disability beneficiaries diagnosed with mood disorders than other locations.

In American Samoa, for example, only 3.1 percent of the workers collecting federal disability benefits had been diagnosed with a “mood disorder.” In Puerto Rico, by contrast, 33.3 percent of disability beneficiaries had a mood disorder.

Massachusetts led the 50 states for disabling mood disorders. In that state, 22.8 percent of disability beneficiaries had been diagnosed with a mood disorder. New Hampshire was second with 22.2 percent, and Rhode Island was third with 20.7 percent.

Among the states, North Dakota--with 9.2 percent--had the lowest percentage of disability beneficiaries diagnosed with a mood disorder. Louisiana was second from the bottom with 9.7 percent, and Montana was third from the bottom with 9.8 percent.

In each month since December 2011, SSA has reported, the overall number of Americans collecting disability has continued to rise. In August, according to SSA, a record 8,767,941 American workers collected disability. Also, in addition to the 8,767,941 workers collecting disability payments, there were 1,853,651 eligible children of disabled workers collecting additional benefits and 164,651 eligible spouses of disabled workers collecting benefits—bringing the total number of disability beneficiaries in August to 10,786,510.

Each year, SSA publishes a detailed statistical account of the people who received disability benefits in December of the previous year. This account includes a statistical breakdown of the “diagnoses” that qualified workers to take disability.

Through 2009, this statistical report included a general category called “mental disorders” that was disaggregated into only two sub-categories “retardation” and “other.”  In December 2009, according to the report for that year, there were 7,788,013 workers collecting disability. Of these, 358,737 were categorized as being disabled by “retardation” and another 2,220,390 were categorized as having an unspecified “other” mental disability.

That “other” mental disability category was the single largest category of disabled workers in the 2009 report. It accounted for 28.5 percent of all American workers taking disability payments from the federal government in December of that year. The next largest category was problems with the “musculoskeletal system and connective tissues.” In December 2009, there were 2,146,952 American workers collecting federal disability insurance for disabilities in this category. That equaled 27.6 percent of all workers taking disability.

With the 2010 statistical report on disability insurance, SSA started breaking out the number of workers collecting disability into a wider variety of specific “mental disorders.”

“Beginning with this 2010 edition,” said a note in the report, “tables and charts showing data by diagnostic group provide detail for mental disorders in these categories: autistic disorders, developmental disorders, childhood and adolescent disorders not elsewhere classified, intellectual disability, mood disorders, organic mental disorders, schizophrenic and other psychotic disorders, and all other mental disorders.”

Among the various mental disorders that caused people to go on disability, the 2010 report revealed, the most populated category was called “mood disorders.” In December 2010, according to the report, there were 8,203,951 American workers collecting disability and 1,257,636 were doing so for a “mood disorder.” That equaled 15.3 percent of all workers collecting disability.

In December 2011, according to the 2011 report released last month, 8,575,544 American workers were collecting federal disability insurance benefits. Of these, 1,304,851 were doing so because of a mood disorder—up from the 1,257,636 who had been collecting disability because of a mood disorder the year before.

In December 2011, 15.2 percent of all workers collecting disability nationwide were collecting because of a mood disorder--and when their eligible children and spouses were included, the percentage of disability beneficiaries collecting because of a worker who had been diagnosed with a mood disorder was 14.2 percent.

That made “mood disorder” the diagnostic cause for the second largest category of disability beneficiaries. The largest single cause was problems related to a worker’s “musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.”  In December 2011, there were 2,488,374 million American workers collecting disability for this kind of problem—equaling 29.0 percent of all disability beneficiaries.

According to the SSA report, 11.2 percent of men collecting disability were doing so for a mood disorder and 19.7 percent of the women collecting disability were doing so for a mood disorder.

The Social Security Administration website describes how a worker qualifies for disability because of a mood disorder—which it divides into “affective” and an “anxiety-related” disorders.

For example, one way a potential disability beneficiary can qualify with a mood disorder includes presenting medical documentation of “persistence, either continuous of intermittent, of at least four of the following symptoms: Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or Sleep disturbance; or Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or Decreased energy; or Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or Thoughts of suicide; or Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking.”

To see SSA’s full explanation of how a person qualifies for disability benefits with a mental disorder click here.

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