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Apr 25, 2012

We Need More Work Incentives!

     Eduardo Porter has a piece in the Business section of the New York Times under the title of Disability Insurance Causes Pain. Here are a few phrases and sentences to give you an idea of what the piece is about:
  • Disability insurance takes too many workers out of the job market prematurely ... slows economic growth ...
  • Some of its growth reflects changes in the population: we are growing older and becoming fragile with age. Similarly, disability rates among women [are rising because they are a larger part of the work force] ...But these factors account for only a small share of the growing cost. 
  • “The health of nonelderly Americans is improving consistently, and we have more technology to help people at work,” observed Mark Duggan, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
  • [B]reakneck growth in the disability program ...
  • [D]isability becomes an attractive alternative for unemployed people ...
  • The disability insurance program was meant for another era, in the late 1950s when working conditions were tougher and disabilities were expected to put an end to someone’s working life.
  • In the mid-1980s, however, Congress softened the criteria. ... required to give more weight to subjective factors like pain ... opened the door for applicants who reported mental ailments like anxiety, or back pain and other muscular problems ...
  • Collecting disability became even easier as rejected applicants were allowed to appeal before an administrative judge without anyone from Social Security present to defend its decision. 
  • [T]he disability program suffers from artificial woes that can be corrected. Fixing the system requires providing incentives to enable disabled workers to continue working if they can.
     Let me list the work incentives already present in the Social Security Act and regulations:
  • Work Not Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)
  • Unsuccessful Work Attempt (UWA)
  • Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE)
  • Trial Work Period (TWP)
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE)
  • Expedited Reinstatement (EXR)
     All we need is just one more work incentive program and those folks will be flying off the disability rolls and back to work. That's the bill of goods that people keep trying to sell. I think you can tell how well this works by the fact that Mr. Porter wants another work incentive program despite the number of work incentives that already exist. I think it's reasonable to surmise that Mr. Porter has no idea of the work incentives that already exist.
     By the way, I notice that pain always seems subjective and meaningless when it's someone else's pain. When it's your pain, it's very real and very meaningful.

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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good point about the incentives, but your remark about pain was unfair. Nowhere in the article did it refer to pain as "meaningless." Here are the only references to pain: "In hard times, disability becomes an attractive alternative for unemployed people who might have toiled through back pain or depression if the job market were strong." "In the mid-1980s, however, Congress softened the criteria. The Social Security Administration, which usually required medical diagnoses as proof of disability, was required to give more weight to subjective factors like pain. This opened the door for applicants who reported mental ailments like anxiety, or back pain and other muscular problems, claims more difficult to verify."

    And it seems pretty obvious that pain is "more difficult to verify" than many other conditions.

    If you're going to make an argument, please don't use a straw man.

    12:03 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Here's the only work incentive that has a chance to be succesful...remove people from disability rolls or greatly reduce benefits.

    The reality is that people who are "disabled" make almost as much as they would at a minimum wage job, without having to leave the home. Therefore, they have almost no incentive to return to work.

    12:44 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "appeal before an administrative judge without anyone from Social Security present to defend its decision".

    A beneficiary here. Does the above artlcle statement seem logical to anyone because it does not to me? Please explain,it was my belief aljs are part of the SSA.

    12:56 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We live in an economy in which healthy people cannot find meaningful work that will support them and their families. All those work incentives in SSA's regs do not create jobs.

    1:09 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    anon @ 12:56...

    ALJ's are "independent" arbitrators. THey are bound to adhere to the rules set forth by the SSA as well as laws promulgated by Congress. However, they are impartial and do not advocate on behalf of SSA.

    There is a good argument that SSA should be able to have a voice at the hearing, arguing on their behalf, that the claimant is not disabled. In other words, refuting or countering claims made by claimants. Instead, judges simply ask questions and listen and are encouraged to avoid being adversarial. This essentially gives claimant's free reign to embellish or exaggerate...as long as they are found "credible" those embellishments or exaggerations help and are not countered by any contrary evidence. In other words, there is not too much to deter such exaggerations. Having an advocate on behalf of SSA at the hearing could possibly provide for a more balanced hearing.

    2:29 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Thank you 2:29 PM, April 25, 2012.

    Obviously i DON'T have a j.d. but it seems to me SSA is well represented by the record.

    5:04 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is a total joke. Most beneficiaries and applicants i have encountered do not ever plan on returning to work. Most of them have a very low skill set. If they return to work and get off the disability rolls than may earn more than on disability, but it is usually not that much more to be considered worthwhile to them. More importantly, if they lose that job, they have nothing. Disability gives them a degree of financial stability and health coverage.

    The true solution is to toughen disability standards. Once most people go on the rolls, they are not coming off until death.

    I also agree that SSA should have a representative at ALJ hearings. Some, ALJs have made decisions that boggle my mind. For instance, I have seen a case where the claimant is contesting the fact of an overpayment. The judge agreed with SSA on that issue, but the judge then waived the entire overpayment. According to all records, the claimant never even asked for a waiver until that ALJ hearing! And how can the judge honestly make a fair determination without any documentation, since the waiver issue had yet to be developed. Unbelievable.

    9:38 PM, April 25, 2012  
    Blogger Lanny said...

    To ensure they (the disability), might as well give them a work you!Court their own fruit, maybe it really is the need······

    4:52 AM, April 26, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    There should be a "defender of the trust fund" present at each hearing. In the most obvious cases, they should be able to agree with the claim, but the ALJ/SA still have to make an independent judgement based on the record, law and regulations.

    8:57 PM, April 26, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Real jobs in the economy are what is needed. If it were 1942 with defense plants at full-strean ahead, runing aroung the clock, and "beating the bushes" for workers at full union wages -- would at least a third of the prople be off the SSD rolls?

    There is a group that unfortunately physicaly and/or mentally cannot be productive workers, but many others would be available if there was the need and a opportunity, who are being overlooked in the present economy (including many-many college graduates, as a starter).
    If there as a booming economy, fair wages (rather than excess profits to the 1% and management), effective vocational training for real jobs, no imported goods and "free trade" deals, and a WAR economy for our "wars." ....

    9:13 PM, April 26, 2012  

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