Several readers recently sent me copies of news articles that appeared in newspapers across the country. The author of that article criticized the Social Security Administration for not updating the list of jobs applicants might be able to do instead of going through the government process of collecting disability benefits. It stipulates that you must be unable to do any type of work to be eligible for such payments.)
I’m sure those job postings will eventually be updated, but here’s what I have to point out. I worked for the Social Security Administration for his 32 years, and in most of those years Congress passed legislation to “fix” disability programs. Also in each of these years there has been an internal SSA investigation and committee that has resulted in proposals aimed at making the disability process fairer and more rational, while at the same time making it less susceptible to fraud and abuse. was also done.
So what’s going on with that? Why are disability programs apparently under constant scrutiny and constant interference by Congress, government and the media?
The bottom line is: Disability programs are absolutely cumbersome to manage. The Social Security Disability Scheme, being by far the largest such program in the country, is prone to administrative nightmares.
Why are disability programs so confusing? Because it is very subjective. Compare, for example, the Social Security retirement program. Retirement eligibility rules are relatively simplistic. After you contact SSA, show your birth certificate that proves you are old enough to qualify, answer a few questions, and meet some other eligibility requirements, you are eligible. increase. No need to fuss.
But disability programs are a completely different story. That’s because it’s hard to get people to agree on an answer to this question. What degree of disability must a person have to be disabled to receive disability benefits? One person’s disability status is a relatively minor inconvenience to another.
Think of this in practical, everyday terms that everyone can relate to. We all know fellow workers who call in sick because they have a case of sniffle. In other words, we all have different interpretations of what should keep people from doing their jobs.
Here’s another example: A neighbor has her 35-year-old son with multiple sclerosis. His son uses a wheelchair and needs other forms of assistance. Yet he still works every day at his local Target store. At the same time, I have met thousands of people over the years who have claimed to be disabled because of back and knee pain. ? What about a man with a bad back?
The government is trying to make the Social Security disability program as objective as possible and has created a handbook full of rules to help SSA adjudicators determine who is legally disabled and who is not. doing. A team of medical professionals is also involved in this process.
However, it always comes down to the fact that government officials must make subjective decisions about an individual’s eligibility for disability benefits after considering medical evidence, consulting experts, and adopting guidelines. .
Let’s go get that guy with a bad back. I call him Frank. We can say that Frank actually has a painful spinal cord injury. How severe must he be to qualify as disabled?He had a job that required him to lift heavy objects. He’s certainly too handicapped to do that kind of work anymore. If he can do other work, does he have to qualify for Social Security Disability? They claimed the list was outdated.)
Let’s say Frank applies for Social Security Disability and is told that his spinal condition is not serious enough to qualify for benefits. However, he has since stated that he also has high blood pressure and some hearing problems. What will happen? Will they disable the man?
Now, let’s assume that the person who originally ruled on Frank’s claim said no and determined that he was not sufficiently handicapped according to the law.
Frank is upset because he is convinced he is disabled. So he appeals. After about a year of waiting (as tens of thousands of other people were appealing), he finally met a judge who interpreted the disability rules slightly differently than the original ruling, and Frank I approve the claims of Frank has mixed feelings. He is happy that his claim was finally approved, but is angry that it took too long for his approval. So he writes to members of Congress demanding they do something to improve the process. Co-sponsor the bill with the requested language.
But is the process broken? Were the first judges wrong, or were the judges too lenient? Different people will have different opinions. That’s the nature of the process.
Let’s follow Frank’s case a little further. Six months after he started receiving disability benefits, a neighbor saw him on a ladder cleaning his gutters. It took a lot of effort, but Frank managed. The neighbor has always been a little suspicious of Frank’s disability claims and seeing this has pushed him to the limit. To do. he says: What should I do? “
This call will trigger a fraud investigation. More SSA adjudicators examine Frank’s claims. After interviewing Frank and obtaining updated medical records, they determine that he is still legally disabled.
This upsets the neighbors. So he writes to representatives of Congress claiming that “an incompetent government is wasting taxpayer money by sending monthly checks to people who are clearly not disabled.” Compassionate representatives agree that the program is too permissive and support legislation containing language that requires SSA to “fix” its disability programs.
By the way, Frank’s example is a true story. About 25 years ago, I was involved in an incident while working at SSA.