After peaking in the wake of the Great Recession, Social Security retirement and disability awards fell in 2011 as the economy improved. Only 27 percent of Americans age 62 and older began collecting retirement benefits that year, the lowest take-up rate since 1976. Disability applications and awards remained unusually high, however. In 2011, 18.9 insured workers per 1,000 applied for Social Security disability benefits, more than in any year except 2010. The surge in disability applications and awards exacerbated Social Securitys financial problems.