"The American Law Journal presents "Social Security Disability- Unfit for Work?" examining a March 22, 2013 National Public Radio broadcast of "This American Life" that according to panelists on the program has drawn both staunch praise and heavy criticism.

Joining host Christopher Naughton are Pennsylvania claimants' attorney, Jess Leventhal of Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein, former SSA representative and New Jersey claimants' attorney, Alan Polonsky of Polonsky & Polonsky, Rebecca Vallas, staff attorney for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and Jagadeesh Gokhale, Senior Fellow with the CATO Institute, from CNN studios in Washington, D.C.

The Legal Intelligencer newspaper's senior staff writer Gina Passarella provides background in an opening feature report."

Social Security Disability & the NPR Controversy: 'Unfit for Work'? on The American Law Journal: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/4/prweb10652780.htm#.UXLSfsR7jbI.emai



Having represented numerous claimant's who became disabled after being shot, and having lost clients and friends to gun suicides, the topic of guns and irrational national policy is fair game for Connect.  In that light, I offer this:

gunshoes" . . . There's something quite fitting and ironic about the fact that the Boston freak-out happened in the same week the Senate blocked consideration of a gun control bill that would have strengthened background checks for potential buyers. Even though this reform is supported by more than 90% of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favour of it, the Republican minority prevented even a vote from being held on the bill because it would have allegedly violated the second amendment rights of "law-abiding Americans".

So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks) . . .

The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child.

At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers that ended on Friday evening, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq. Yet, none of this daily violence was considered urgent enough to motivate Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers . . ."

Why does America lose its head over 'terror' but ignore its daily gun deaths? Michael Cohen,The Observer http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/boston-marathon-bombs-us-gun-law

"You may have missed it, but over the weekend congressional Republicans admitted that they are terrified that any Social Security cuts will lead to their defeat.

If you are paying attention to the politics of Obama’s chained CPI offer, you may have noticed that Republicans have been running away like their hair’s on fire away from his proposal.

The reason why is that Republicans are afraid that the president is setting them up. Roll Call reported, “The debate Walden’s remarks has set off inside the GOP shows many Republicans harbor deep-seated fears about publicly supporting the entitlement cuts they supposedly back and have demanded Obama and other Democrats embrace since taking control of the House in 2011…Many GOP operatives fear Obama’s embrace of chained consumer price index, a mechanism to slow the growth of Social Security benefits over time, is a trap — a means of getting Republicans to support the policy on the record only to see Democrats savage them for it down the line.”

The Republican strategists who suspect this are partially correct. President Obama is using Chained CPI to set up a win/win/win situation for Democrats. Republicans have to choose between raising taxes in order to get the Chained CPI, arguing for Chained CPI without the tax increase, or rejecting Chained CPI. If Republicans express any desire to cut Social Security, Democrats will savage them for it during next year’s election. If Republicans agree to raise taxes at all, the base of their party will erupt in rage. If Republicans split and some of them reject Chained CPI, it will never become law. (Chained CPI probably won’t become law anyway, because Harry Reid and many Senate Democrats have promised to oppose any changes to Social Security.)"

Obama Called Their Bluff: Republicans Admit They Are Too Scared to Cut Social Security http://www.politicususa.com/obama-called-bluff-republicans-admit-scared-cut-social-security.html



. . . While people are howling at a revised method of calculating inflation, they are completely missing broader perspective on how this president is devising a more expansive social safety net. So let's get some perspective. This president has expanded the social safety net in more broadly than anyone since the passage of Social Security - through health care reform, through expanding children's health insurance, through student aid expansion and through Medicare reforms. Let's talk about those. . .





Harmful Allegations about Social Security Disability Programs Perpetuated in Misleading Media Reports

Englewood Cliffs, N.J. - April 11, 2013 - The past few weeks have seen dramatic, sensationalized media reports about the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, based on anecdotes, half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. The National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR) is compelled to set the record straight about the program - which serves as a vital resource for millions of Americans.


Increase in Disability Rolls


The truth about the increase in disability rolls is that this was an expected trend, predicted as far back as 1994, with two very clear factors: the aging baby boomers entering their high-disability years, and women who entered the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s that are now eligible to draw on their own earnings record when they become disabled.


"The mistruths and recent media barrage is unwarranted and shocking," said Nancy Shor, founder and executive director, NOSSCR. "We're very concerned that they do not tell the entire story and that they will be harmful to the millions of Americans that depend on these modest benefits to maintain a basic quality of life. Yearly benefits are only around $13,000 per year - just enough to keep beneficiaries out of deep poverty and homelessness."


Who Gets Benefits?


As eight former SSA Commissioners pointed out this week in an open letter, the standard for disability approval is strict; the majority of applicants are not approved. Disability benefits are only a modest asset that helps beneficiaries live with dignity while unable to work.

"There are more than 38 million disabled Americans, but only the most seriously disabled, or around 14 million, have proved eligible to receive benefits, which they depend on greatly" said Debra Shifrin, attorney and president of NOSSCR. "When comprehending the Social Security disability system, people need to understand that less than one third of initial applications are approved, and only 40 percent overall, as it requires evaluations and documentation to establish that these claimants are truly in great need."


Highly Regulated Fee Structure


As a member organization made up of attorneys and other advocates who represent people with disabilities, we are very concerned with the gross mischaracterizations of representatives in recent stories. It is important to keep in mind that claimants who hire private attorneys do so voluntarily.  Claimant's representatives' highly regulated fees are taken on a contingency basis and are capped at 25% of the claimants' past-due benefits, or $6,000 - whichever is lower. Additionally, the Federal Court appeals process is so time consuming and complex that few lawyers want to handle these cases at all. Attorneys that do this work are deeply committed to public service and are motivated to discourage frivolous claims that could overload an already burdened system.


Social Security Disability Benefits and The Economy


Simply put, Social Security disability benefits do not contribute to the deficit. SSDI is self-financed by payroll taxes (FICA) and SSI dollars come out of taxes raised, therefore not increasing the national debt.  Achieving long-term solvency for Social Security programs should not be part of deficit reduction efforts.  


The Social Security Disability Insurance program is an essential component of our American government system, intended to be a social safety net for American workers unable to perform job functions and support their families. These attacks are blatantly one-sided, untrue and threaten the modest benefits that are needed by so many. We encourage the media to focus on solutions to reform the system to ensure it is strong and efficient for many years to come, rather than disparaging our nation's most vulnerable population.


For more information or to speak with a representative or member of NOSSCR, please contact Lauren Weybrew at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 646-214-0514.  




NOSSCR, a specialized bar association for attorneys and other advocates who represent people with disabilities, has been a pioneer in legal continuing education and public policy advocacy since 1979. We represent Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Insurance claimants through the adjudication process, advocating for the income rights of people with disabilities. Learn more at www.nosscr.org.