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Date: 11-17-2017



The Crittenden Press

Kentucky is second in the nation in disability benefit payments, and Crittenden County ranks near the top in opioid use by recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Medicaid.

According to "Social Security Disability in Kentucky: The Evolution of Dependence, 1980-2015," 11.2 percent of Kentuckians in 2015 received some form of disability payments. That's 375,000, enough for second among the 50 states in terms of percent of resident population. In fact, Kentucky has not dropped below that dubious rank since 2002. 

In Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, a full quarter of the people living there were on disability in 2015. IN the Big Sandy area, Magoffin Co. was ranked 5th and Martin Co. 9th despite the billion dollar coal boom during the study period. See Report HERE

The recent report was conducted by Kentucky’s Disability Determination Services (DDS), a division of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 

In the 35 years between 1980 and 2015, the state's disability enrollment grew by 249 percent, while the state's population grew by only 21 percent over that period.

Making matters worse, "enrollment trends within Kentucky’s disability population have been matched with trends in statewide prescription drug use," the report reads.

Two disability programs

The federal government issues disability through two programs – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI. Both share a common definition: "The inability to engage in substantial gainful activity based on a medically determinable impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death." SSDI recipients must have worked long enough to be insured for Social Security benefits, while SSI payments have no such qualifications.

SSDI monthly payments to Social Security-vested individuals average $1,166, but there is, generally, a five-month waiting period to begin receiving benefits and 24-month wait for insurance coverage through Medicare. 

Meantime, SSI payments average $578 per month and recipients are automatically enrolled in Medicaid. Both payments and Medicaid enrollment are awarded on the application date or as early as three months prior to that date. Children also fall under SSI and are enrolled in Medicaid, which allows parents up to $735 monthly per disabled child.

Mental disorders account for the top condition for disbility claims for both SSDI and SSI. Nationwide, 34.8 and 60 percent of beneficiaries, respectively, qualify under mental disorders.

Local SSI Medicaid opioids

In 2015, Crittenden County ranked third among Kentucky's 120 counties for per capita prescribed doses of opioids (commonly found in painkillers) through SSI Medicaid. An average of 193.18 doses of opioids per SSI beneficiary in the county were prescribed by health care professionals. The state average is 147.29 per capita, which is triple the 2000 statewide rate. 

Marshall County was the only other western Kentucky county in the top 10 for 2015 per capita doses of SSI Medicaid opioids.

Building dependency

Once awarded disability, few people appear to return to work. According to the 46-page study by DDS, only 3.7 percent of SSDI beneficiaries and 5.5 percent of SSI recipients make a successful return to work after benefits are awarded.

"Rather than providing a helping hand for a better future, the current dependence culture has become a permanent cycle for the overwhelming majority of awardees," the report states.

Nationwide in 2015, Social Security disability programs paid out benefits totaling $192.3 billion, or 5.2 percent of the federal budget. The dependency on disability payments cost the Kentucky economy $4.47 billion in lost individual income.

"Benefit dependence is highest in states and counties within Kentucky which are historically affected by under-education, long-term unemployment and persistent poverty," reads the report.
One in five Kentuckians lives in poverty.

Cause and correction

The study suggests that both the public and private sector have driven up disability roles in response to unemployment. Following the Great Recession of 2008, as long-term unemployment ran out in a stagnant job market, SSI claims soared. SSDI claims rose as private sector pension systems turned retirees to the disability system.

"Much of the exponential growth of benefit dependence over the past 35 years has been fueled by a multitude of factors which are completely unrelated to the mitigation or treatment of hardship borne of genuine disability," the report reads.

The problem appears to be compounded by a large contingency of convicted felons leaving prisons.

"At present, Social Security disability is systematically absorbing formerly incarcerated individuals who are functional but not employable due to felony convictions – a disproportionate number of which arose from non-violent drug offenses," the report states.

The DDS study suggests radical reform of the disability system, including more objective medical and psychological evaluations for qualification, capping childhood payments to parents, more vigilant fraud investigations and creating a culture that honors work.



+1 #2 Jobs 2017-11-22 02:57
Most of the ones I know work and get paid under the table. Appalachian Lottery. Its a way of life for the whole family once they figure it out. Gives them all the time in the world to get high and make babies for the tax
payers to support.
-1 #1 Thanks 2017-11-18 23:08
Thanks Eric C. Conn man. Keep

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