From the Wall Street Journal blog:

The surge in the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability benefits – up 42% since 2004 – appears to have hit a plateau, but it’s unclear if the program has actually peaked and will ever recede.

The number of Americans receiving benefits hit 10,939,936 in March 2013, and has hovered around that level for the past year, according to Social Security Administration data. The program topped out at 10,988,269 in December and then retreated a bit. As of March, total enrollees hit 10,981,423. Average monthly benefits have ticked up slightly, to $995.38.

The program has become so large that budget watchers have estimated it could exhaust all of its trust fund reserves sometime in 2016 or 2017. But as people have watched it grow, some experts have wondered if it would ever stop growing. Now they know – it leveled off, at least for now.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is one of the government’s largest entitlement plans, paying out close to $140 billion in benefits each year.

Applications for benefits surged during the economic downturn, but have eased considerably as the economy has slowly recovered. In 2010, 2.9 million Americans applied for disabled worker benefits, twice the number that applied in 2000. In 2013, 2.6 million people applied for benefits, the lowest number since 2008, and the agency awarded benefits to 884,894 workers, the lowest number since 2007. See full article with graphs: