10/7/2013, What Did 60 Minutes Get Wrong About Disability?


The piece was driven by Sen. Tom Coburn, a far-right Republican from Oklahoma perhaps best-known for being a climate change denier. Coburn’s staff is investigating disability fraud, and just so happens to be releasing a report on the issue the day after the 60 Minutes segment aired…

As economist Dean Baker (Beat the Press, 10/7/13) wrote: “The basic fact, which may be painful for CBS News and 60 Minutes, is that it is not easy to get on Social Security disability. Close to three quarters of applicants are turned down initially and even after appeal, 60 percent of applicants are denied benefits.”

Or as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (10/4/13) explained in a letter to CBS:
“The Social Security disability standard is incredibly strict, and just four in 10 applicants are awarded benefits. Award rates have further declined during the recent economic downturn. Demonstrating eligibility requires extensive medical evidence, and even people with life-threatening illnesses can wait months if not years to receive benefits. Many individuals are denied despite significant disabilities and chronic illnesses.”

So what explains that surge in disability payments? As Neil deMause noted in Extra! (6/13 ), it should not come as a surprise: “The number of Americans receiving disability benefits has indeed risen steadily over the years, but there are plenty of demographic reasons why. As a group of eight former Social Security commissioners (4/4/13) wrote in an open letter in response to the NPR story: The growth that we’ve seen was predicted by actuaries as early as 1994 and is mostly the result of two factors: Baby Boomers entering their high-disability years, and women entering the workforce in large numbers in the 1970s and 1980s so that more are now “insured” for DI based on their own prior contributions. (Like Social Security, SSDI is paid for out of workers’ own payroll tax contributions.)”

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