Report: 11 percent of Kentucky on disability

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - With more than 11 percent of Kentuckians receiving some form of Social Security disability payment, the Bluegrass State has the second highest such percentage in the country, according to a new state report.

A 35-year study, conducted between 1980 and 2015 by Kentucky’s Disability Determination Services (DDS), a division of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), revealed an astonishing 249 percent increase in disability enrollment during a period when the state’s overall population increased 21 percent. Childhood enrollment soared 449 percent.

“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 reassert control of our future and make it better for all Kentuckians.”

According to the report, in the past 15 years, Kentucky has never ranked below second nationally in percentage of the population on disability.

The formula

There are two beneficiary classes that qualify for Social Security Disability — Title II and Title XVI.

To be eligible to receive Title II benefits, the following requirements must be met by the applicant:

• Have worked long enough to become insured for Social Security benefits; be younger than full retirement age.

• Have filed an application for benefits.

• Be blind or disabled per Social Security rules

• Have served a 5-month waiting period (except for certain exemptions).

Title XVI beneficiaries must meet the following requirements:

• Be blind or disabled per Social Security rules.

• Reside in one of the 50 states, the Northern Mariana Islands or the District of Columbia, or be the child of a military parent assigned to permanent duty outside of the United States.

• Be a United States citizen or national who meets the applicable alien status or residency requirements

• Have income and resources below specified limits.

• Have filed an application.

The formula adds the number of Title II disabled workers, the number of Title II childhood disability beneficiaries, the number of disabled widows and widowers, the number of Title XVI disabled beneficiaries and subtracts the number of concurrent beneficiaries who are receiving more than one type of benefit (to avoid double-counting).

The top 10

Wolfe County had Kentucky’s highest estimated percentage of the population receiving disability benefits with a whopping 24.92 percent — nearly a quarter of its population. Owsley County was a close second with 24.64 percent.

Rounding out the top five are Breathitt County (23.8 percent), Clay County (22.88 percent) and Magoffin County (22.3 percent).

In spots six through 10 are Floyd County (20.97 percent), Lee County (20.21 percent), Leslie County (20.07 percent), Martin County (19.29 percent) and Harlan County (18.91 percent).

The rate of controlled substance prescriptions in counties with high percentages of disability beneficiaries has also increased exponentially.

According to the report, these counties were in the top 12 in both disability enrollment and per capita opioid prescriptions: Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Lee, Leslie, Owsley, Perry and Wolfe counties.

From 2000 2015, there was a 210 percent increase in opioid prescriptions for SSI/Medicaid adult recipients. Psychotropic prescriptions for SSI/Medicaid children jumped 168 percent.

“The explosive 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,” said Bryan Hubbard, acting commissioner of the Department for Income Support, which oversees DDS. “Armed with the grim statistical reality of the past 35 years, we can seek better outcomes over the next 35 as we work to fix a broken system that must be preserved for individuals who can neither care nor provide for themselves.”

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