Disability Blankets for the Thumb Sucking Masses

01 Aug, 2013 Bob Wilson


The only real surprise to me with this story is that it hasn't received bigger play in the workers' compensation blogosphere. The discussion may be out there, but I seem to have missed it.

A study released this past week shows that recipients of federal disability checks often admit that they are capable of working but simply don't. Furthermore, the study found that people closest to disability recipients tell them they should be working, but they have no plans to do so anytime soon.

Shocked. Simply shocked.

This survey did something that I have not seen before. It defined and explored a difference between SSDI and SSI, and how people on each program respond and think. SSDI is for people who worked and contributed to Social Security prior to their disability event. It is considered an “earned” benefit. SSI is for those who have likely never worked or have contributed very little, but have successfully convinced the government that they are disabled, and therefore are awarded an “unearned” benefit.

Researchers found that those collecting government checks from the SSI (unearned) program report less pain than those on SSDI. They are typically overweight, uneducated and from broken homes.

Shocked. Simply shocked.

I know many cynics out there will be surprised to learn this, but despite claiming medical problems as the reason they do not work, “most have never received significant medical treatment and [have] not seen a doctor about their condition in the last year”. And the most shocking revelation of all? “Those who acknowledge they're on disability because they can't find a job say they make little effort to find one”.

We've talked a lot this year about the burgeoning national disability problem, and the fact that workers' comp needs to address its contribution to the issue. Studies like this, however, confirm the problem is far larger than just our little corner of the universe. The Social Security Disability program is being wrested from its foundational purpose as a safety net for the truly disabled, and converted into just another welfare program for the lazy thumb sucking masses of the world. It is the new security blanket, woven by the producers to keep the takers dry and snuggly warm.

Part of the problem is politically driven. The system should weed fakers and malingerers out, but current methodology for tracking and reporting unemployment has made it convenient and expedient to move thousands on to the disability roles, where they will no longer appear as a jobless statistic on the nightly news. Disability judges are even suing the Federal government, as it has allowed their workload to become so ridiculously overburdened that they are being forced to streamline approvals that never should be. The lawsuit aside, politically it is much easier for our politicians to avert their eyes and let it happen. Besides, those newly disabled will likely vote to keep the largess coming, and that works in the politicians favor.

I will be roundly criticized by some for this harsh and uncompassionate viewpoint. Too bad. I get that some people are truly disabled. I even understand that there are people who will just never be able to function normally in our society or be able to provide for themselves. We do have a moral obligation to assist those people. I am not against SSDI or SSI. I am against the wrong people getting them. The fact that some have my support, however, doesn't automatically entitle them to my respect.

You want my respect? Get a job.

My problem is that definitions of disability are too broad, and even some of those on the “earned” side of disability could be working. The study I am discussing noted that a small percentage of people on disability do work – mostly for cash under the table. 72% of SSDI recipients who took a job did so for cash under the table; 70% for SSI recipients.

17% of SSI recipients admitted they would not work because they did not want to lose “benefits such as disability, worker's compensation, or Medicaid”. 12% of SSDI recipients admitted that. 16% of SSI, and 12% of SSDI recipients said they weren't working because the jobs they could get “didn't pay enough”.

1 in 10 admitted they did not have any physical or mental condition that would limit the kind or amount of work or other daily activities they can do.

Remember, these are federal benefit recipients taking a federally funded study, and 1 in 10 ADMITTED they did not have a physical or mental issue affecting their daily activity. I sort of wonder what the unacknowledged percentage was.

We are creating in this country a permanent underclass of dependents that is truly homogenous. It is not one color, one race, one ethnicity, one gender or one age. It crosses parameters of all common demographic forms of measurement, but it has one consistent theme. This group is becoming the permanently enslaved, tied to a welfare system loosely disguised as a disability assistance program; pawns in a political and economic struggle, and victims of their own sloth, greed and ignorance.

The workers' compensation industry must recognize our own contributions to the problem. We likely push people to this fate with a system mired in complexity and its eye off the end game. This game is not one of “settle and close”. It needs to be one of “Recover and Return”, frankly whether the injured wants to or not.

This is not a sustainable trend, nor should we endeavor to make it so. There are just too many thumb suckers, and not enough blankets to go around.

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