CNN.com has an article today on disability overpayments made by the Social Security Administration ($1.3 billion over two years according to a recent Government Accountability Office report). Although people often associate government overpayments with fraud, often times it’s just bureaucratic bungling.
On Sunday, CBS’s 60 Minutes profiled Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) on-going investigation of fraud and abuse in the federal government’s two main disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (see Chris Edwards’ discussion here). Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (Coburn is the ranking member) held a hearing on a particularly egregious example centered on the Social Security Administration’s Huntington, WV office.
The abuse and overspending in government disability programs is so bad that even National Public Radio and 60 Minutes have taken notice. On the heels of this excellent NPR examination of the “disability industrial complex,” the venerable CBS news show last night profiled Senator Tom Coburn’s efforts to uncover fraud in the two big federal disability programs.
My recent paper on the rising cost of Social Security Disability Insurance is proving to be timely.
Combined outlays on Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income have roughly doubled over the last decade and will cost taxpayers almost $200 billion this year. The complex and often subjective disability determination process, which is essentially the same for both programs, has created an opportunity for specialty law firms to grab a piece of the action.
This morning, I discussed Social Security Disability Insurance on C-SPAN's Washington Journal:
In 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Paletta reported on the rapid growth in individuals applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits. Paletta found that Puerto Rico had become a particularly easy place to obtain benefits. Officials with the Social Security Administration (SSA) absurdly claimed that nothing was amiss.
Liberalization of Standards for Disability Benefits Is Turning Able-bodied Workers into Government Dependents
Several weeks ago, I witnessed an able-bodied individual who had parked in a handicapped-only space proceed to put in a strenuous workout at my gym. Indeed, a casual internet search reveals that abuse of handicapped parking spaces is a real problem — so much so that cell phone apps have been created to help catch abusers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that federal programs intended to help the truly disabled are also being abused.
Rivers of red ink continue to flow from the federal budget, and we still face an entitlement spending crisis. But you wouldn’t know it from the priorities of the two political parties: President Obama has been busy pushing for more “investment” spending, and the Republicans have been consumed by the administration’s scandals.
The 2013 Social Security Trustees’ report, released last week, is proof positive that you really can make numbers say whatever you want. By highlighting one set of “asset reserves” that showed some growth, the report gives ammunition to those who would rather not deal with the fact that the program is on a path to disaster.