The backlash from the recent “60 Minutes” segment about Social Security disability programs took our minds off the shutdown for a few days. Now that the shutdown is over — for the moment — critics of “Disability, USA” can put all of their energy into correcting the misinformation included in the report.
From out last post, we will continue with the second point made by Think Progress: “60 Minutes” seemed to swallow whole the belief that both the Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs are rife with fraud and abuse.
The allegation always reminds us of, of all things, a trip to Ellis Island. We overheard a visitor to New York whisper to her companion, “So many people turned back!” In fact, between 1 and 2 percent of immigrants through Ellis Island were returned to their countries of origin.
SSD and SSI fraud estimates are even lower. According to a number of sources, payment accuracy rates are very high: Less than 1 percent of payments are fraudulent.
As far as wasteful processes go, the Social Security Administration’s administrative costs run to about 1.4 percent of benefits paid out annually.
3. The growth in the disability programs is not a surprise. Almost 20 years ago the Social Security Administration predicted current enrollment, basing their calculations on demographic data. Not only are Baby Boomers aging into what Think Progress calls their “high disability years,” but because the number of women entering the workforce began to climb in the ’70s and ’80s, more women have contributed to the system and, so, are now eligible for benefits.
Another factor that critics often miss is that the retirement age for Social Security benefits went up. As a result, disability programs are paying for a couple of extra years, until the beneficiary can convert to retirement benefits.
We’ll try to wrap this up in our next post.
Source: Think Progress, “Nine Facts That Prove Disability Insurance Isn’t A Giant Boondoggle,” Rebecca Vallas and Shawn Fremstad, Oct. 16, 2013