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New report outlines alarming rise in Ky. disability recipients

top12countiesA new report released in October reveals a staggering 249 percent increase in the number of Kentucky adults and children receiving disability benefits over the past 35 years.

The report was prepared by Kentucky’s Disability Determination Services (DDS), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and presented at the Kentucky Work Matters task force meeting in Frankfort.

The study of outcomes covered the timeframe between 1980 and 2015. During that time, Kentucky’s population grew by 21 percent while its combined disability enrollment grew by 249 percent.  Childhood enrollment growth was 449 percent. 

In 2015, 11.2 percent of Kentuckians were receiving some form of disability benefit payment, which is the second highest percentage in the country.  Since 2002, the percentage of Kentucky’s population receiving disability payments has never fallen below second among all states.

A statement released by the state noted that as the disability rolls have increased, so has the rate of controlled substance prescriptions.  Per capita opioid prescriptions for SSI/Medicaid adult recipients have increased from 47.58 doses in 2000 to 147.29 doses in 2015, a 210 percent increase.  Per capita psychotropic prescriptions SSI/Medicaid children have increased from 272.61 doses in 2000 to 456.87 doses in 2015, an increase of 168 percent. 

The report also provides information on the physical and mental conditions that lead to disability awards. The top five overall conditions are musculoskeletal system diseases (33.4 percent), mental disorders (32.8 percent), diseases of the circulatory system (7.8 percent), diseases of nervous system and sense organs (7.8 percent) and diseases of the respiratory system (3.5 percent).

The report states “Social Security disability benefit dependence should be created by genuinely disabling conditions which permanently preclude individuals from ever performing remunerative work.  For people so afflicted, the integrity and solvency of the system must be preserved. Tragically, some individuals in Kentucky have never experienced life without public assistance.” The report noted that “as a bureaucratic institution, the SSA is motivated to protect and, if possible, expand the scope of its activities across the full horizon of its operational domain.  For the SSA, claims and beneficiaries equal budget.  This simple equation drives the SSA’s internal culture thereby making it a significant obstacle to long-term change.”

The report recommends reforming the SSA and an overhaul of the SSA Program Operations Manual System.

“This report is the first of its kind to have ever been issued by an individual state,” said CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “Its findings shed new light on the misuse and abuse of a vital program intended to help disabled citizens.  It also illuminates one of the main drivers of our prescription drug abuse epidemic while offering solutions as to how we stem the tide of prescription and public assistance dependence.  The good news from grim findings is that we can re-assert control of our future and make it better for all Kentuckians.”