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Disability recipients nearly 7 times more likely to die of COVID-19, according to SSA data

The Social Security Administration has released data showing a shocking disparity: Current and former disability recipients – just 4% of the U.S. population – made up 26% of excess deaths during the first 22 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Put another way, those receiving benefits are 6.5 times more likely to die of COVID infection than the general population. 

 An article in Health Affairs Scholar offers deeper analysis of the SSA data, noting: 

The pattern of deaths among disabled beneficiaries corresponds closely to known milestones in the pandemic’s history. Disabled beneficiaries in New York, particularly those residing in institutions, had extremely elevated mortality with the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Across all regions in the United States, mortality among disability beneficiaries increased sharply with the onset of the winter of 2020–2021 and with the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants in 2021. Elevated mortality was observed for persons with intellectual, mental, and physical impairments. 

The data confirm what we as claimants’ representatives already know: This is an extremely vulnerable population facing systemic, social, and medical hurdles, often in dire circumstances. These recipients deserve a fast, fair, accurate and accessible benefits process, with fewer barriers to essential – often lifesaving – benefits.  


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