The costly epidemic of disability

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For many Americans, collecting disability has become a career, said Michael Barone. Over the past 50 years, the number of people receiving benefits from the Social Security disability program created to help Americans who are too sick to work—has rocketed from 455,000 to 8.6 million. An incredible 5.6 percent of adults are now getting disability checks, with a cost to taxpayers of $130 billion a year.

The cause of this disability epidemic is simple: In recent years, the government has relaxed its disability standards, and now readily accepts such unverifiable ailments as “mood disorders,” depression, and back, knee, and joint pain. Today, almost 50 percent of disability payments are going to people who claim pain or mental states that no doctor can observe or disprove. “In other words, many people are gaming or defrauding the system.” In 2010 and 2011, 1,730,000 new jobs were created—and 790,000 people went on disability.

Many of these people will never rejoin the workforce, and will never enjoy the satisfaction of earned success from honest work.” Can our indebted nation continue to pay millions of adults not to work?


Disability Fraud

Enterprise story on disability fraud that took months of work. The Social Security Administration would not actively participate, so I needed time to chart a path around it, developing other sources and using SSA information available to the public.