"The cleverly titled story, “Trends with Benefits” is gracefully presented and gets some things right. It depicts with human texture some unpleasant realities facing millions of displaced workers with health difficulties whom our economy has left behind. With the exception of nutrition assistance, our safety-net has failed to keep pace with the Great Recession. Disability assistance has naturally filled the gap. SSI and SSDI expenditures have correspondingly increased. This is an important story.
Still, I fear the misimpressions this piece leaves behind. Particularly in the area of childhood disability, Joffe-Walt presents an awfully incomplete picture. Listeners are invited to conclude that many kids are brought onto SSI who really don’t need the help, that overly lax program requirements and loopholes, exploited by the “disability-industrial complex,” have produced exploding caseloads and an unsustainable budget problem.
Joffe-Walt says little about the mechanics of the eligibility determination process, or how it might be improved. She doesn’t discuss how the administrative capacities of SSI and SSDI might be bolstered to reduce errors in both directions that have large consequences for human lives.
Listeners might be surprised to discover that the final award rate for disability applications has averaged about 45 percent. Moreover, low employment rates among denied applicants suggest that disability assistance is not inducing otherwise-employable people out of the workforce. The misfortunes of people wrongly denied benefits, the problem of sick people bleeding money as the ponderous bureaucratic process moves along, the plight of disabled people stick on the Medicare waiting period—these matters were also left unexplored."
Misleading Trends with Benefits : Our Blog : Welcome to The Century Foundation http://tcf.org/blog/detail/misleading-trends-with-benefits