Federal Fiscal Follies, Part III (Revisited) – The Disability Scam

| March 26, 2013

I’ve written about this problem before here at TAH.  And I knew then the problem was bad.

But I didn’t realize how bad the problem had become.  The problem is far bigger than I thought originally.

When all costs are totaled, the Federal government is now spending more to support those who are “disabled” than it is on classic “welfare” and food stamps – combined.  The government is now making over 14 million Social Security disability payments each month – or more than 5 million more the nearly 9 million monthly payments I noted in my previous article.

The problem seems to be getting worse as the economy “recovers”, too.  Since 2009, an average of 100,000 more people are applying for disability each month than new jobs are being created.  And less than 1% of those who became “disabled” since the beginning of 2011 have returned to the labor force – in spite of the statutory requirement that a person be unable to perform any type of useful work in order to receive Social Security disability payments at all.

The overall cost to taxpayers today, including healthcare for these “disabled” folks?  Try about $260 billion – annually.  And increasing.

Oh, and did I mention that people who are drawing “disability” from the SSA are not even counted as part of the US labor force, even if they’re actually able to work in some capacity?  God only knows what the US unemployment rate would be if Federal law were enforced regarding the criteria for receiving SSA disability payments rather than being widely ignored.  But you can bet it would be far higher than it is today.

A lady from (of all places) NPR – Chana Joffe-Walt – has researched the problem in great detail and  discusses the issue here.  IMO her article is definitely worth a read.  And it’s depressing as hell.

Here’s one final bit of “good news”:  according to the Social Security chief actuary, the SSA disability insurance program will run out of funds in 2016.  That’s about 3 years from now.

In the 1980s, we heard about “welfare queens”.  They’re largely gone today.  But from what I see, it looks like they’ve been replaced by “disability drones”.

Damn.  Just . . . damn.

Category: "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Economy

Comments (16)

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  1. CAs6 says:

    Haha, YES. I saw the tagline and thought “someone else listened to This American Life yesterday.” That episode ticked me right off.

  2. Barry says:

    I understand your surprise that this report came from NPR, but I have to say – NPR’s “Planet Money” program (which got its start during the initial days of the Great Recession in 2007/2008, and which originally aired her story) has been consistently interesting and consistently excellent for some time now.

    Highly recommend: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/

  3. Hondo says:

    CAs6: nope; never listen to NPR.

    But I do read Drudge. (smile)

  4. ohio says:

    Easier to get SSI disability benefits than VA benefits. Maybe the head of SS should take over the VA.

  5. rb325th says:

    @4, there is some truth to that, though from where I sit I see a lot of young Veterans collecting both SSI and 100% for Unemployability now and in growing numbers. A large number of them under 30…
    I have to admit, I almost submitted my packet for 100% UI and SSI before I was able to land a job at the VA. I was forced to change careers and at 46-47 it was a bit challenging to make that change.

  6. Hondo says:

    rb325th: the fact that it’s apparently easier to get SSI disability is a further issue. By Federal law, the burden of proof that a person can do no useful work of any type is on the applicant when it comes to SSI disability (42 USC 423). In contrast, if I recall correctly for VA benefits the veteran is theoretically to be given the benefit of the doubt if a case is questionable.

    IMO, one of the things that makes it so difficult to get through the VA system is the relatively large fraction of fakes/scams/shams that are (a) already clogging the system or (2) in the application pipeline trying to get there.

    The VA does a better job than the SSA in screening out obvious fakes. But IMO, not a whole lot better job. We’ve simply seen too many of them slip through and steal benefits belonging to deserving vets.

  7. ohio says:

    Point taken, however how many ads do you see on TV from the high roller law firms for VA benefits representation vs SS benefits?

  8. Hondo says:

    ohio: very few if any for VA. But IMO that’s almost certainly due to the difference in scope.

    Since 2001, the number of vets getting VA compensation has increased by about 800,000 – from about 2.4M to about 3.2M. Since that’s a period of 144 months, assuming 50% success (2 applicants for each new recipient) that works out to a bit over 11,000 VA applicants monthly.

    Since 2009, per the article on Breitbart an average of nearly 250,000 have applied for Social Security disability each month. That’s about 22 times more people monthly than are applying for VA compensation. If you’re a lawyer, which market segment are you going to target with your ads?

    I’m also willing to bet you’d see far fewer ads on TV if the SSA actually followed Federal law and actually required applicants to show they could perform no type of work whatsoever in order to receive disability payments. That’s what the law requires, but by all accounts it’s very often ignored in practice by the SSA.

  9. ohio says:

    Understand. Just pisses me off that vets are basicaly ignored while lazy people are getting SSI.

  10. Hondo says:

    ohio: me too, amigo. Me too.

    And it pisses me off even more that a good chunk of those getting VA benefits are scammers, shammers, or outright frauds.

  11. Tman says:

    Need more of those undercover investigation types to weed out the malingerers and fakers.

  12. AW1 Tim says:

    I am one of those veterans that receives both VA & Social Security Disability. In my case, the SSD application process was 6 years long. Back when I applied, the emphasis was on me, and fortunately, I had a great doctor who took really excellent notes on my conditions. However, it wasn’t something that I WANTED to do, but after being able to work full time, and fast running out of options, it was something I ended up HAVING to do.

    What I found was that the SSD doctors routinely turned down all the applicants unless there was overwhelming physical evidence. My lawyer told me that the government then turned them down because they knew that at least half would NOT reapply, with all the new paperwork, appointments, exams, etc. If they made it too difficult, they’d have fewer people on the rolls. I agree.

    In my case, it was 6 years of this and that until I finally got an attorney and, with my doctor’s records, and my VA records, it took less than 6 weeks to get a favorable decision.

    What pisses me off to no end, though, ARE the scammers and fakers. I can still walk, though there are some issues with that. I am eligible for a “disabled” vehicle plate or tag but as long as I can walk and get around, I won’t apply for it. But I see all these fuckers driving around, with those plates, or windshield hanger, who jump out of their car or truck, and walk with no issues. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how they can be so brazen about it.

    I’d love to have a real job and not have to be on the dole. I’d love to not hurt all the time and be able to move like I used to, to do the things I used to, and it angers me to no end when I see people who appear to be healthy and able to work, collecting SSD and being able to hang around all day and do squat.

    And when all of these scammers and fakers and moochers cause the system to collapse in 3 years, those of us who NEED the system will be royally fucked over.

    So yeah, I’d love to see a wholesale cleaning of the “disability house” and put these people on the street and back to work. And I’d love to see the doctors, lawyers and other enablers of this spending some time in jail for THEIR part in this as well.


  13. StillServing says:

    The fact that 45% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans are applying for some sort of disability is appalling!

  14. FourteenSierra says:

    How does anyone have hope anymore?

  15. Hondo says:

    StillServing: that 45% figure relates to a completely different subject (VA claims) entirely. The article here concerns SSA disability, not VA compensation. Totally different programs with different intent and target populations.

    The 45% VA disability claim figure is disturbing, too. I’ll have more to say about that subject sometime soon.

  16. StillServing says:

    Hondo: Thanks for the clarification.