Mar 14, 2012

Social Security Subcommittee Schedules Hearing

     From a press release:
U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, today announced a hearing on how disability is decided.  The hearing will take place on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, in B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 10:30 a.m. ...
In announcing the hearing, Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) said, "Americans with disabilities deserve to get the right decision as early as possible, but that’s just not how it currently works.  States struggle on the front lines to make sense of the program’s complex rules to decide who gets benefits.  At the same time advances in treatment, rehabilitation, and the workplace have created new opportunities for those with disabilities to return to work.  Securing the future of the disability insurance program should address these challenges and opportunities while keeping the process fair for both claimants and taxpayers."  
      Could someone tell me what those advances are in rehabilitation and the workplace that create new opportunities for those with disabilities to work? Don't try to tell me the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed anything. Have you seen how the Supreme Court has interpreted the ADA out of existence? The ADA is a dead letter. The only people who still think it means anything are those who fought against its approval.
     Have medical advances really created new opportunities for people with disabilities to work? I think that joint replacement surgery and coronary stents would qualify but those are old news. New treatments for stomach ulcers would certainly qualify but that's such old news that few people reading this can even remember the days when stomach ulcers caused considerable disability. (For those who do, remember Billroth II? Dumping syndrome?) Roux-en-Y surgery for obesity might qualify. Better diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea has made a difference but it's not like Social Security was ever putting many people on benefits for this anyway. The medications we have available for HIV are wonderful and certainly allow more people to work but in the past those people would not have been drawing Social Security disability benefits for long because they would have been dead. Spinal surgery has gotten a bit better over the years but it's far from being a reliable solution for back or neck pain. When it comes to psychiatric illness, suffering has been reduced a bit but I don't think many knowledgeable people would claim that this has done much to restore the ability to work. Schizophrenia remains horrible, horrible, horrible. Counter to the advances that enable some people to work are advances that keep disabled people alive longer to draw Social Security disability benefits longer. To what extent do those longevity advances offset advances that enable people to continue to work? And what about medical advances that allow better diagnosis so that some people who were denied disability benefits in the past are now approved? The advent of the MRI certainly put more people on Social Security disability benefits for multiple sclerosis. Lupus is much more easily diagnosed now than in the past. And further, what about the obesity epidemic. It's certainly making more people disabled. And what about crack cocaine? People aren't found disabled as a result of using crack cocaine but it damages people's health to the point that they are found disabled based on physical illness. And then, there's the hepatitis C epidemic. It gets little press but it's a much bigger deal than HIV-AIDS and medicine can hardly treat it! It's producing a lot of disability that was not present in earlier years. My opinion is that the whole notion that disability is being significantly reduced by scientific advances is just wishful thinking. At ground level, it's just not happening.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Earlier cancer detection has reduced disabling metastasis. But diabetes still produces end stage organ damage, despite A1C monitoring and newer drugs. The PAIN epidemic has produced disabled prescription drug addicts by the millions. What effect does the lack of health insurance have? It's still a sad, disabled USA.