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.
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.
One reason I’m so bullish on Australia is that the nation has a privatized Social Security system called “Superannuation,” with workers setting aside 9 percent of their income in personal retirement accounts (rising to 12 percent by 2020).
It’s not quite on a par with 9/11 truthers or Obama birthers, but recently a number of liberal commentators have descended into the fever swamps of denialism by rejecting the most basic facts about our debt and deficit. Mind you, they are not arguing about the best policies to reduce the debt — taxe hikes vs. spending cuts — but actually denying that the problem exists at all.