New Social Security Disability Applications Drop 14% from 2010

The number of people receiving disability insurance payments from the Social Security Administration declined last year for the first time since 1983, a reduction that comes as Congress faces a deadline to fund the program or risk cutting benefits to millions of Americans.

The decline, attributed in large part to economic and demographic trends, follows years of staggering growth that made the nearly $140 billion program a target of criticism by Republicans.

Now lawmakers are drawing battle lines with the White House over how to replenish the program’s funding. Without an agreement, benefits would be cut 19 percent by late next year, trustees of the Woodlawn-based agency have warned…As Washington prepares for a confrontation on funding issues, agency data actually show the number of beneficiaries fell by half a percent in 2014 to 10.9 million. The number of new applicants, meanwhile, dropped 14 percent from 2010.

If those reductions hold in coming months, it could quiet criticism of the program and make it easier to strike a deal, observers said.