According to federal data, 385,000 working-age Michigan residents receive some sort of disability benefits, totaling $425 million per month, Selweski writes. Gary Kozma, a Michigan attorney who specializes in disability cases, said many older, rural unskilled people with debilitating health problems that can’t find work view disability almost as early retirement.
That's true in Northern Michigan, where "a surprising number of desperate workers have turned to Social Security disability benefits to earn a livelihood," Selweski writes. "Many don’t expect to return to the job market, unless federal investigators throw them off disability rolls. In some counties, rates of poverty and disability hover around 15 to 20 percent, raising questions about whether a some portion of working-age residents apply for disability as much from despair that they will ever land another job as from physical necessity." (Bridge graphic: Disability in Michigan)
"With jobs in manufacturing, construction and similar manual labor beyond their reach, these economic outcasts also held little chance of landing employment in the region’s fragile retail sector or service industries," he writes. "Armed with a high school diploma or less, they were unlikely to find office work. So, they turned to the Social Security system’s disability insurance."