I know this is going to get some people really ticked off with me, but I truly believe that the Social Security disability program is screwed up and needs major fixing. Allow me to justify myself.
I know a man who has two grown daughters. The youngest daughter is very lazy and has never wanted to work. She wants others to take care of her. She is also one of the worst hypochondriacs I’ve ever known. He tells me that she heads for Urgent Care or the E.R. with every little thing. Once he told me that she caught an imaginary disease from him when he pretended to be sick but wasn’t.
Over the course of several years, she has gone to her doctors with complaints of aches, pains and migraines. Several doctors ran test after test after test and they all came back fine. One day she saw a new doctor for the very first time. He had never seen her before nor had he seen her medical records. In the matter of a few minutes, he told her she had fibromyalgia, something very hard to diagnose. Instantly the daughter was convinced that’s what she had and went home and looked it up on the internet. Once she read all of the symptoms, she suddenly had most of those that she never had before.
Once diagnosed, she was sent to a pain specialist. It seemed no matter what the specialist did, she was always worse afterwards and had no improvement. She is now receiving SSI disability. I personally know of several ladies that have severe fibromyalgia and they all have told me that the same treatments from the same pain specialist always helps and makes them feel better for a time. All of them also work full time and do their best cope with their fibro.
The man’s oldest daughter has always had a good work ethic and has held jobs most of her adult life. He told me that she has gone to work when she had pneumonia, just so people didn’t think she was like her sister. At one time, she worked in a hospital where she was attacked by a patient and received a severe neck and shoulder injury that ended her career in nursing. Through the course of her treatment, they pumped her full of steroids which caused her to put on a lot of weight and eventually destroyed most of the cartilage in her knees. She has difficulty standing or walking for any length of time because of the knee pain and severe swelling in her ankles and feet.
She also suffered from partial seizures and two years ago had a brain tumor inside a cyst. The tumor and cyst were successfully removed but left permanent damage to one of her eyes. She can’t drive at night and has to close her bad eye to read anything in normal or small print. She applied for SSI disability and was denied. She is now unemployed because she physically can’t work, but she was denied coverage.
There are thousands of cases similar to both of these. There are many people who whine, cry and moan at every little thing and receive disability and then there are others that are genuinely disabled and are repeatedly denied disability coverage.
Similar findings were found by an 18 month study conducted by Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee. They randomly selected 300 cases of SSI disability and discovered that disability benefits were improperly awarded in nearly 25% of the cases. Since the average lifetime disability payments average $300,000, the overall costs of such improperly awarded benefits could easily add up into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the report, they discovered some benefits that had been awarded on the basis of a one page document that was filled out only the day before the person’s hearing. Another person was awarded disability for having severe carpal tunnel syndrome and was found to be working quite normally as a bartender a few months later.
Pete Sepp, executive vice president of National Taxpayers Union commented on the report saying:
"What is news is how high the improper payment rate is in the disability programs; and worse, how many problems the federal administrative law system is contributing to the improper payment and the taxpayer waste abuse problem."
"It has almost become mechanical on the part of many administrative law judges to just take a quick peek at some documentation, perhaps not even ask questions of the people at the hearings, and just rubber-stamp the benefits. That's in large part, I think, because what we're talking about here is other people's money -- and the other people are the American taxpayers. They are not being adequately represented in this process."
I agree. Something needs to be done to revamp how disability benefits are awarded. I’m not sure I have all the answers, but I do know that the system is broke and that there are thousands of people taking advantage of it at our expense while others who really deserve it can’t get it. If you have any good ideas on how to fix the system, let us know.