I wrote an article Disability is the New Welfare reflecting the apparent conclusion of the NPR piece on disability from Planet Money Unfit For Work.
I had a reader named Joan email me about the topic and I shared her thoughts with A Readers Perspective on Disability
Well now several other folks have chimed in on the topic as well. Planet Money pointed to some responses and gave other links to additional information on the topic Former Social Security Commissioners and Others Respond to Our Disability Story
First lets look at the :
An Open Letter from Former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration
One key bit they say:
"It is true that DI has grown significantly in the past 30 years. 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. The increase in the number of children receiving SSI benefits in the past decade is similarly explained by larger economic factors, namely the increase in the number of poor and low-income children. More than 1 in 5 U.S. children live in poverty today and some 44 percent live in low-income households. Since SSI is a means-tested program, more poor and low-income children mean more children with disabilities are financially eligible for benefits. Importantly, the share of low-income children who receive SSI benefits has remained constant at less than four percent."In other words: Most of the increase in disability is purely due to demographic changes.
There is also a response from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)
"Unfit" for NPR--Let's Get the Facts Straight on Disability Social Security Disability Programs Are a Vital Lifeline for People with Severe Disabilities
They didn't seem to care for the NPR article much at all.
They say: "Unfortunately Ms. Joffe Walt’s reporting fails to tell the whole story and perpetuates dangerous myths about the Social Security disability programs and the people they help."
The CCD response makes a lot of points.
One data point they give is that :
"Many are terminally ill: 1 in 5 male SSDI beneficiaries and 1 in 7 female SSDI beneficiaries die within 5 years of receiving benefits. "
That hardly paints a picture of a bunch of "free loaders".
"Just 1.6 percent of U.S. children receive SSI fewer than 1 in 4 U.S. children with disabilities.
Contrary to what Ms. Joffe Walt suggests,doing poorly in school is not a basis for SSI eligibility."
And as far as people shifting from TANF to disability, they point out : "The decline in TANF enrollment from 1996 to 2011 is more than 20 times the magnitude of the increase in SSI child enrollment during that period."