I have written recently about the attitudes towards the Social Security disability programs that exist within what I'll call the ADA community, a group of people, many of them in wheelchairs, who are committed to the notion that literally anyone can and should work, regardless of the severity of their disability. They believe that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed everything, despite the abundant evidence that it changed almost nothing. The ADA community seems to regard the existence of Social Security disability benefits recipients as a sign of a great failing, by society They believe that all those recipients should be working and would be working if only something -- they don't know what -- were changed. The ADA community seems to think that every disability is much the same as being in a wheelchair, something that a well-motivated person who has a bit of help should overcome. If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at these excerpts from an announcement by the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency:
Notice of Funding OpportunityNCD-02-12NCD seeks an individual or entity to undertake a project to analyze the various options for SSDI [Social Security Disability Insurance] and SSI [Supplemental Security Income] reform, including what measures could facilitate people currently receiving SSDI and SSI benefits in being able to work, what measures could decrease the likelihood of needing such benefits, and what financing options exist to extend the life of both programs. ...
Suggested Framework for ResearchThe National Council on Disability is interested in answering the following questions:
- What would a fundamental restructuring of the SSI and SSDI system require to align it with the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act, i.e. eliminate the requirement that an SSDI applicant declare themselves unable to work in order to be eligible for benefits; provide job retention supports to working people with disabilities who are at risk of job loss as a result of their disability; assist people with disabilities who are at risk of job loss because they are not receiving reasonable accommodations.
- Given the extremely diverse populations served by the SSI and SSDI programs, how might different reform strategies disproportionately impact – either positively or negatively – particular segments of the disability community?
- Based on the most current evidence-based research, does the Medicaid buy-in opportunity impact work activity? How should it be modified to promote work opportunities for people with disabilities?
- To what extent has the Ticket-to-Work initiative been evaluated? What lessons can be drawn from the challenges the Ticket to Work program has faced in realizing its intended goals? If sufficient information is available to make a determination, what reforms to the Ticket to Work program are recommended?
- Did the research reveal any changes to other federal programs that would have a positive impact on the health and effectiveness of the Social Security Programs and work opportunities for SSDI and SSI beneficiaries?
- Could an incentive mechanism be used to encourage employers to make more efforts to accommodate employees with disabilities and to avoid employees with disabilities going on to SSDI rolls, e.g. an experience rating system whereby employers, whose employees have a lower rate of SSDI retirements, pay lower SSDI payroll taxes?
- Could an incentive mechanism be developed to encourage states to supplement the SSI program with state funds?
- Could an incentive mechanism be used to encourage more employers to offer private disability insurance policies that would supplement the SSDI program?
- Are there other changes to the SSDI or SSI programs that would promote work activity, preserve benefits for those who need them, and secure the fiscal integrity of these programs?
These proposals come despite the fact that the Congress has again and again fallen for the siren call of the ADA community and stuffed the Social Security disability programs with every imaginable incentive for recipients to return to work, so many incentives that keeping them all straight is a huge challenge. The only thing left is to stop with the incentives and try compulsion -- time limited benefits. That would be an enormous mistake but there is literally nothing left to try if you really believe that all those disability recipients should be put back to work. By this point, the ADA community is a positive menace not only to Social Security disability recipients but to the Social Security Administration and Congress. They are pulling policy making in a potentially calamitous direction.