Welfare in America has long created a dependent class, done more to encourage voter appreciation at the ballot box in my jaundiced view, than for altruistic reasons. These welfare issues are important to American business; tax burdens to pay welfare dilutes response to the needs of a workforce requiring remedial aid for workers with poor work ethic, inadequate education, and no reverence for excellence. Of equal concern is the waste and fraud that the U.S. system of dependency has created. A major area to examine covers the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) which now disperses 14% of all SSA payments, $57 billion annually. A report on this topic by James M. Taylor, a Managing Editor at CCH Incorporated, tells a shocking tale of our nation in trouble, wrought by a prodigal government.

SSDI benefits are funded solely through social security taxes. To qualify, a person is supposed to have a medical condition of such severity as to result in functional limitation for years to preclude working in previous employment or "any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." SSDI is for those completely incapable of working. Those finding it difficult to obtain work or unable to perform prior or preferred work are not eligible for benefits. However, as Taylor's study entitled "Facilitating Fraud" says, "Whether motivated by misguided altruism, political expediency, or bureaucratic indifference, SSA flagrantly disregards both the language and spirit of SSDI programs."

SSDI benefit and case information is not publicly released by SSA but in rare instances, when an employment disability discrimination lawsuit is filed under Americans with Disabilities Act concurrent with a SSDI claims, information may be available. The vast majority of SSDI actions evade scrutiny as only a small percentage of recipients file ADA suits. Only a few of these result in a written legal opinion. In only a minority of instances do the opinions mention details of SSDI benefits.

But the Taylor study details 43 cases of abuse. Under the more lenient ADA definitions, persons are disabled if they are "substantially limited in any major life activity." However, in a majority of study cases, SSA granted full SSDI benefits even after a federal court ruled the claimants did not even meet ADA definitions of disability. Further, the Supreme Court ruled on 24 May 1999 that SSA has purposefully turned "unable to work" into a "term of art" under which a person can simultaneously be disabled and nondisabled. As a result of this absurdity, with SSA knowledge and allowance, people work full time yet still collect benefits based on "total disability." The egregious nature of cited cases makes the blood boil. As examples :

  • An insurance company physician reviewed files then wrote medical opinions; he got carpal tunnel syndrome, had surgery, failed to return to work, then claimed the employer did not make workplace accommodations. He simultaneously filed an ADA suit and claim for SSDI benefits. SSA awarded tax-free, lifetime compensation of over $100,000 a year.

  • A factory worker received a poor job evaluation; the worker then claimed a sore shoulder but doctors agreed no medical restrictions existed. The employee then filed ADA and SSDI claims but a federal judge ruled he had no disability and wrote that the case was "frivolous°°utterly lacking in merit," and that the medical and employment history of the person was riddled with misconduct and false representations. The judge made the worker responsible for the employer's court costs "to provide a modicum of justice." The SSA administrative law judge then awarded the fellow full SSDI benefits.

  • Job stress also is a frequent culprit of SSDI collections. It caused one employee to allege decline in "sexual prowess," an employee fired due to rude behavior to customers to allege discrimination and inability to work, and an insurance agent who could not talk on the telephone with clients to claim disability and all received full, lifetime, SSDI payments.

  • Remember the professional golfer Ford Olinger who cannot walk around but wants to ride the PGA tournament course in a cart ? SSA granted him full SSDI benefits.

The U.S. Bureau of Census estimates that between 1991 and 1998, US population grew 7% while SSDI individual payments rose 47% and dollar payouts increased 77%. That just doesn't fit.

The solution to remedy this terrible situation is to make SSA officials and their determinations subject to review and personal accountability. Another solution is to throw crooked government employees in the slammer, which has a chilling effect on waste, fraud, and abuse. IH