The problems for good hard working tax-paying Americans never cease. In the 80’s and 90’s, welfare kings and queens and other neerdowells were taking their hard earned money and buying nice shoes and fancy cars. Nowadays, Barack Obama wants to spend it all forcing everyone to have free health care and redistributing all of it to those irresponsible poor people. Slate points us to another group of leeches and moochers, living like their welfare king and queen predecessors on an average of whopping $1000 a month. Who are these lazy sponges sucking good hard earned money out of the pockets of Good Americans? Millions of people with disabilities, of course.
According to the article, SSDI eats about $180 billion annually. To put that in perspective, we gave the banks nearly 4 times that for tanking our economy (job well done!) and we give just as much to the Pentagon every year. But, according to James Ledbetter and an economist at MIT, America needs to rethink eligibility criteria because some of those claiming mental illness are
faking “exaggerating.” While the numbers don’t exactly lie – SSDI claimants have increased since the late 1950’s –our understanding of mental illness has too. To show an increase in claimants without pointing out that the numbers begin at a time when we still lobotomized people and homosexuality was considered a mental illness is at best, irresponsible. (Full disclosure: I worked as a “job developer” for a number of years (someone who finds work for people with disabilities) and I have a close relative with a mental illness.)
Plenty of people with disabilities work when they’re able to. Many times, people on SSDI and SSI *wish* they could work or work more. However, the barriers to working a full time job aren’t only physical. Try competing in the job market when you need someone to chaperone you on your job interview or when you can’t understand the 100 question “personality” tests at the local retail outlet. While most potential employers comply with the EEOC in name, plenty will find a reason to not make a reasonable accommodation. Since SSDI is tied to Medicare, many people with disabilities can’t work more than a certain number of hours for fear of losing Medicaid, which is the only lifeline to much needed prescriptions and medical care. Finally, it’s not all that easy to get benefits – the screening process turns down plenty of people who should be immediately eligible on the first and second applications. We’re certainly not “paying people to stay out of the workforce for the rest of their productive lives.”
If anything in SSDI needs “fixing,” it’s the fixing the fact money available for people who cannot work like the "average" American (who is also struggling to maintain a job) receive so little money. Based on the $1,000 a month average, that’s $12,000 a year, a number barely above the poverty line. If a nation’s greatness is really measured by how it treats its weakest members, we failed that test for now.