Feb 6, 2018

Welfare For People Too Lazy To Work?

     From Dylan Matthews writing for Vox:
Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said in 2015. “Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts?”
It’s a common line from conservative politicians: that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is just welfare for people too lazy to work.
Many of those politicians haven’t spent much time at all actually talking to the people they’re denouncing — people like Randy Pitts.
Before his body started to fail him, Pitts, a 43-year-old in Lake County, Tennessee, was a public servant. He loved his job as a 911 dispatcher for the county’s emergency services; he recounts with pride the story of the day he kept residents calm as trees crashed around them in an ice storm. He was elected county commissioner, a position he used to champion solar power.
Then in 2013, Pitts, who already had moderate arthritis and herniated discs in his back, was diagnosed with renal failure, an extreme form of kidney disease — the beginning of a chain of events that would leave Pitts and his family dependent on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which offers assistance for workers who develop disabilities and illnesses that render them incapable of working any longer.
Pitts’s renal failure led to a medical emergency that left him with what a doctor told him was likely post-traumatic stress disorder. Too weak to stand and talk, he campaigned for reelection but narrowly lost his seat. At his dispatcher job, he struggled to remain calm and form clear sentences to reassure callers. In 2015, struggling mentally and physically, he had to give up his job; these days, he’s unable to dress himself without help from his teenage son.
Pitts’s son works, as does his daughter, who is in college. But the family’s major lifeline is the $1,196 per month Pitts gets through Social Security Disability Insurance — which has been, over the past several years, under intense political assault from the likes of Sen. Paul....
Stereotypes about recipients wasting or not needing the money are common even among people on the program. ...
After visiting Tennessee, talking to SSDI recipients across the state, and scouring the rich economic literature on the program, I was left with a starkly different conclusion from the prevailing criticism. SSDI is not a gusher of free federal money for lazy people with backaches. It’s a stingy, hard-to-access program that helps some of the country’s most desperate citizens scrape by; applying takes months or years, and more than 60 percent of applicants wind up being rejected anyway. ...
According to Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, nine of the 10 counties with the highest share of working-age adults on SSDI voted for Trump, with each of those nine giving him at least 70 percent of the vote; all but one of those nine counties are in Appalachian West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky ...
The regions where people are more likely to be on disability map onto objective measures of health status — like years lost due to early death, diabetes and heart disease rates, and even cancer rates. SSDI serves people who are desperately sick or injured; its beneficiaries have a mortality rate triple that of other people their age, and one-fifth of men and one-sixth of women on the program die within five years of first getting benefits. It’s no accident that it’s concentrated in areas where that kind of severe hardship is also concentrated. ...
Only about a fifth of people on SSDI lack a high school diploma, but education nonetheless is a powerful predictor of the program’s geographic distribution. That’s largely because low levels of education are correlated with poor health. ...

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tell someone who owes doctors and hospitals a million bucks they are just lazy and collecting a check.

Anonymous said...

Yes, only about a fifth 20%) of people on SSDI lack a high school diploma, but in the national population between 25 and 65, about 10 % lack that same diploma. Ihttps://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p20-578.pdf
In other words, about twice the percentage of people on disability than the rest of the population lack at least a high school diploma.

People aren't disabled because they lack an education, but a lack of education is a marker for many other issues, both physical and psychological the limit their ability to work.

Anonymous said...

So the program worked, he is getting his disability.

Tim said...

1:01 PM Just because it worked for him doesn't mean the program currently "works." Would you think a justice system "worked" if 50 percent of defendants were convicted? What if 10 % of those who were convicted were innocent? Would you say SSDI/SSI "works" if 20% who meet SSA's definition of being disabled are denied by ALJ/AC? It may be a zero sums game to SSA (making up for the Conn), but it's not to those screwed by this system as it's currently run!

Anonymous said...

@2:50 -- Bravo Tim!

Dan Smith said...

I always wondered how Rand McNutty came up with that “over half” figure. SSA decisions don’t identify a “main impairment” or anything, so my guess is that if there’s any truth to that figure, it means that over half of claims include a spinal or mental problem as one of potentially many severe impairments in each case. Obviously that’s a very disingenuous measure for evaluating the issue (but when has that ever stopped a politician before, especially Paul).

Anonymous said...

Also, isn't it just strikingly obvious that musculoskeletal impairments (DJD and back problems) and mental impairments like depression and anxiety crop up so much simply because they are common impairments?

Disability isn't usually some huge tragic acute event or the result of a rare affliction. Most people are disabled by your everyday, run of the mill physical and mental impairments that reach debilitating enough degrees to meet the requirements.

Anonymous said...

@Dan...

SSA does track primary and secondary impairments on their systems, so it wouldn't be difficult to crunch the numbers to reach that conclusion. I'd think depression is more common than anxiety, and obesity is at least as prevalent, if not moreso, than either.

Anonymous said...

8:42, SSA tracks this but which impairment is chosen as primary and which as secondary seems pretty arbitrary. And then SSA publishes stats that look only at primary impairment. So someone might have DJD, depression, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis of the knee, poor circulation and neuropathy in the feet, asthma, obesity, and COPD....but they get categorized as a musculoskeletal case.

Anonymous said...

How many times does a person have to be denied before they understand they are not disabled?

Grant Smith said...

Can we drop mailers over all of the red states stating the following:

"Social security disability insurance is NOT a handout or an entitlement. It is paid by both employees and employers every paycheck"

These republicans are dumber than owl shit.

Tim said...

2:28 PM. Just because someone has been denied, even several times, doesn't mean they're NOT DISABLED! This is a crazy time we live in. Someone born a man can claim to be a woman and go into women's restrooms and the government says you have to respect that person's "self-identity." However, that same government will bend over backwards with Ted Wellsian logic to claim someone can do a job or 2 so they can justify their denial. I don't think they give a damn about the truth!

Anonymous said...

If you think you have "paid into the system and it is my money" then you have no idea how it works. Total up your taxes and see how many checks it gets you. Not to include Medicare. "I pay for Medicare with my premium" is also an uniformed position for those that are not under IRMA the government picks up 75% of the premium cost EVERY month. It is and always has been an entitlement program, built on the premise that the money coming in from the new workers will pay for the old workers and the disabled. Problem is the new workers are outnumbered by the aging and disabled.

Heather Christopher said...

@12:25... I completely agree with you on it being an "entitlement program"... I don't agree at all with the statement "it's my money" but i think though that what most people who are disabled like me feel we were lied to too. Yes, we did pay into the system and were told by doing so that if we became hurt or disabled we would be protected. Well we are NOT protected we are left to go homeless waiting for a decision. It's even worse for those of us under 40 as our odds of getting it are cut dramatically. Then there are people like my dad who paid nearly the whole maximum amount allowed to be taxed as a worker and an employer because he owned his own company. He became disabled filed for disability and was denied and gave up and then didn't file until years later. So now the 10 years they count have elapsed and he gets the monthly minimum in SSI. The system failed him and it fails a lot of us but i completely agree "it is not our money" BUT we were lied to every year wgen we got that statement showing what we paid in and what benefit we would get if we became disabled.

Anonymous said...

"It is and always has been an entitlement program, built on the premise that the money coming in from the new workers will pay for the old workers and the disabled."

@12:25, that might be for retirement benefits, including Medicare, but the disability program is not an entitlement program, much like any other insurance program isn't an entitlement program. Total up your car premiums or your home owners insurance premiums and see if that will cover the replacement cost of either. To say disability is an entitlement program shows a flawed understanding of the program, insurance, or both.

Tim said...

12:25 PM. SSDI/SSI and the retirement part to a lesser extent are like an insurance program. The amount you get is based upon the "premiums" you paid in. Sometimes insurance pays much more than you paid in. Other times, it pays out much less. Sometimes, you get nothing back. Just depends on the policy and those administering it.

Anonymous said...

How is SSI like insurance?

Anonymous said...

How did entitlement become a bad word?
You work, you are taxed, you pay the tax for long enough you meet the law's standards to be entitled to Social Security when you reach the minimum age or become disabled.

That is an entitlement and that's now something bad?

Anonymous said...

Agree 9:18, meet the standards. Not just hand it out because you filed an application.

Grant Smith said...

@ 12:25

You have zero understanding how insurance work. Plenty of people get into an accident the first month or two of having insurance. Their car is totaled and their insurance pays out tens of thousands of dollars yet they only paid a few hundred in premiums.

The same really CAN'T happen with SSDI since you have to build on work credits. Also there are plenty of people who die and never get to collect any benefits.

That's why they call it insurance and I suggest you inform yourself before coming on here and making statements that make you look foolish.

Anonymous said...

The most recent Vox "The Weeds" podcast had some great days about SSDI, referencing the old This American Life story and other studies. Worth a listen.

Anonymous said...

Grant, I suggest you work on your reading comprehension skills. In your haste to be offended and reply you entirely, completely and utterly missed the point.

Tim said...

10:01 AM You have a point? Indeed, it must be difficult to find a hat that fits I am properly! If you are 12:25... Is your point that we are spending more than we're taking in (da!)? Well, it's not because of SS retirement/SSDI, because those are funded through FICA. Can it continue? Some adjustments need to be made. Just like with the rest of the government.