Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Flake in the Blizzard of Recent Attacks on SSDI

Dear Mr. Cavuto, I heard part of your interview with Dan Mitchell of the CATO Institute this afternoon. From hearing that segment I can say that Mr. Mitchell needs to do some homework on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

He expressed the view that only a "handful" of people genuinely qualify for SSDI benefits; that there is a cadre of doctors who grant disability benefits to people for pay; and that many people don't deserve benefits because the program was designed to compensate people who have serious injuries like the loss of a leg in an industrial accident.

I am well aware of major defects in the SSDI program, having practiced disability law since 1983. The flaws I heard Mr. Mitchell describe are not prevalent.

The prevalent defects of SSDI include:

o Many people lack adequate medical care and therefore can't establish whether or not they meet the medical requirements;

o Difficulty obtaining specific medical documentation for Social Security causes many disabled people to struggle 2 or 3 years for benefits while their health declines.

Also, a large part of the public misunderstands the SSDI program:

o Many people like Mr. Mitchell think doctors grant or deny disability benefits, though doctors only furnish evidence that may/may not lead Social Security to grant benefits;

o Many people like Mr. Mitchell confuse state workers' compensation with federal SSDI. Workers' compensation is the primary compensation system for people injured by industrial accidents. SSDI is primary for everyone else. Confusing the two often causes flaws of workers' compensation to be attributed to SSDI.

There is a crisis in SSDI, which Congress has ignored and disguised over the years by shifting money to SSDI from the Social Security retirement fund, instead of instituting fundamental reform.

Rather than swinging in the dark, people like Mr. Mitchell should do their homework and attack the real flaws in SSDI. These flaws can misdirect scarce benefits to less severely disabled people and make thousands of severely disabled individuals wait years for benefits they need, deserve and paid for with mandatory deductions from their paychecks throughout their working lives.

Sincerely, Doug Smith, publisher, Disability Workbook for Social Security Applicants
August 23,2011