With enemies like these, who needs facts?

October 7th, 2013 · No Comments · Blog, Featured Home Page Post

Fingers in ears 'cause I'm not listeningWe can now add 60 Minutes to the list of media outlets where opinion-based journalism masquerades as investigative reporting. Yesterday they even had Senator Tom Coburn on the show to talk about his humble opinion that “thousands” of individuals are getting disability benefits and shouldn’t be.

If only the facts behind  Social Security Disability Insurance were so simple. Such as:

  1. Real investigations of the SSDI program indicate it has an extremely low rate of improper payments – about 1%  –  a low error rate most other large programs can’t come close to.
  2. Congress has consistently underfunded  the Social Security Administration (SSA). The administrative budget is equal to just about 1.4 percent of benefits paid out each year. Over the last three years, SSA has received nearly $1 billion less for program administration than needed. The agency projects that by the end of FY 2013, it will have lost over 11,000 employees since FY 2011 – a 13 percent drop in its workforce –  at a time of increasing demand.
  3. SSA is required by law to conduct continuing disability reviews to ensure that benefits are paid only as long as beneficiaries remain eligible. SSA estimates that every $1 spent on a CDR saves the federal government $9 – but reports a current backlog of 1.3 million CDRs due to many years of insufficient administrative funding.

Of course none of these or other facts were included in the 60 Minutes’ “investigative” report, and here’s why: the facts behind the SSDI program are complex and don’t easily fit into a 15 minute segment.

Don’t get me wrong. No fraud should be tolerated and anyone who knows of someone committing or trying to commit fraud to obtain SSDI benefits should be reported immediately to the Social Security Fraud Hotline 1-800-269-0271.

Notably absent from this coverage was any discussion of efforts already taken by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to prevent and detect fraud. Also missing was the opportunity for anyone from SSA to tell its side of the story at all. Disability advocacy organizations tried to get 60 Minutes to tell both sides of the story, but producers did not respond.

As the old saw goes: if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Lisa Ekman, Health & Disability Advocates




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