Media: Tell the Real Story of Social Security Recipients

Doctors in my community sometimes say “all lawyers are rich and ripping off the system, getting benefits for people who do not deserve them!”

My response is: “You do not know what you are talking about. Doctors need to certify recipients for disability, so why don’t you say doctors are ripping off the system?”

But upon further reflection why do doctors and some others feel that the system is being ripped off?  Here is a possible explanation.

When President Clinton signed “welfare reform” into law in 1996, he promised to end welfare as we know it. Now, some new reporting suggests we’ve created a new kind of welfare, only most Americans aren’t aware of it: The Social Security disability system. Surprisingly, there was a recent attack on the system and those that work with the system by a source that one would expect to be supportive of the poor and downtrodden: National Public Radio. Their recent broadcast has generated some heated controversy.

The number of people who depend on checks from Social Security disability programs has soared in recent years, according to NPR’s series “Unfit for Work: the Startling Rise of Disability in America.” The reports, which began several weeks ago, raise the question: How disabled are the recipients, really?

A quick primer: the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash assistance to people who are poor and disabled, including families with disabled children. The basic monthly SSI cash benefit is a set amount — currently $710 for an individual and $1,066 for a couple. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program also provides monthly cash assistance to disabled people who have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. People who leave the workforce and go on disability also qualify for Medicare.

But some recipients were never contacted and they responded as follows:

“I am a registered nurse and I collect SSID. I was severely injured and flown away in the helicopter to the ICU where I used to work and put on a ventilator with my head smashed in and multiple fractures. Now I am no longer able to work so I get to collect my social security early. I hear this a lot about welfare moochers. It makes me feel bad about living on money I actually paid into the system. Please don’t think this is always about welfare moochers like some kind of knee-jerk response.”

The Rockford Register Star newspaper published a nice article on the “human side” of this issue May 19, 2013. Many seniors are living on the brink.

“On June 10 this former chopper-crew chief and Vietnam War vet turns 63. In two years he hits ‘retirement age,’ 65, once marked by a gold watch, a ham sandwich buffet and best wishes for a blissful life after work.

That day will bring no bliss for Mason. He hasn’t worked for a decade. A rickety back, which for 16 years has required a pain pump, made it impossible to work as a machinery design engineer.

Worse, he fears that the $1,688 a month in disability payments that are, according to bankruptcy documents, his only income source will be cut by several hundred dollars when federal retirement benefits kick in.

“’I think I’ve got 64 cents in my checking account right now,’ Mason said last month in an interview in his darkened one-room apartment. ‘I’d like to see them live on what I make.’

“Mason is on the brink.”

These and others are the real stories about who benefits from the Social Security System. To emphasize only the fakers and gougers in our society is not only unfair, but inaccurate and unnecessarily maligns a system that is intended to help deserving citizens. These attacks only help those that want to destroy the system and abandon those that need it most. Why? To save money by taking benefits away from the working class. Notice that nowhere in the articles do they mention the banks, the rich and the “well to do” and how they rip off the system by avoiding taxes etc. These attacks are against you and me.