Mar 22, 2013
The number of Americans receiving federal disability payments has nearly doubled over the last 15 years. There are towns and counties around the nation where almost 1/4 of adults are on disability. Planet Money's Chana Joffe-Walt spent 6 months exploring the disability program, and emerges with a story of the U.S. economy quite different than the one we've been hearing. Web Extra: here.
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Web Extra: Planet Money's Videos, Graphs, and Photos
- Ira Glass talks with Planet Money reporter, Chana Joffe-Walt, about Hale County, Alabama — a place where one fourth of working age adults are on disability. That means the government has determined that due to a health issue, 25 percent of the adults in Hale County are unable to work, qualifying them for monthly payments and health care coverage. Chana explains that people in Hale County have a lot of theories as to why their disability numbers are so high: freeloaders, cheaters, hard partiers, obesity. But none of those seem quite right. The rise in disability isn't just happening in Hale County but in pockets all over the country. 14 million people are now receiving disability payments. And it's a number that is growing. We devote the whole show today to figuring out why these numbers are ballooning and what it says about our economy. (7 minutes)