Green Room

Study: Majority on federal disability admit finding work isn’t a goal

posted at 12:06 pm on July 31, 2013 by

Caution: Reading the following statistics may cause extreme sadness at the hardships faced by some fellow citizens, and involuntary anger over the insidious attitude of entitlement “safety net” benefits have instilled in others.  The data is drawn from an extensive 2009 government survey of 2,300 disability beneficiaries, representing the more than 18 million Americans who receive either SSI or SSDI checks.  The Washington Examiner reviewed the results from each individual respondent and consolidated them into an comprehensive pool, which helped illuminate broader trends.  Here’s a brief explanation of the differences between the two disability services, as well as a few insights into the real, heartbreaking struggles some enrollees face:

Unearned disability, called SSI, is for individuals who have petitioned to be classified as disabled. Many of them have never worked and have never paid into Social Security. Earned disability, or SSDI, is for those who have held jobs for significant periods of time and paid at least partially into Social Security before becoming disabled. Those collecting government checks in the unearned program are in less pain than their counterparts who paid into the system, the analysis showed. They are typically overweight, uneducated and from broken homes. But the analysis also revealed more practical barriers to weaning recipients off the disability rolls: The jobs they’d be candidates for often don’t provide health insurance, which is essential for those with medical problems, and they’d rather receive the federal benefit. Many also say they don’t have transportation to work.

These hurdles are real, if not insurmountable, for some disability recipients.  But here’s where many taxpayers’ sympathy may begin to wear thin:

Recipients of federal disability checks often admit that they are capable of working but cannot or will not find a job, that those closest to them tell them they should be working, and that working to get off the disability rolls is not among their goals. More baffling, most have never received significant medical treatment and not seen a doctor about their condition in the last year, even though medical problems are the official reason they don’t work. Those who acknowledge they’re on disability because they can’t find a job say they make little effort to find one, according to a Washington Examiner analysis of federal survey results.

This is the killer, in my book:

The Examiner analysis underscores a “general cycle of poverty,” in which families break down, efforts at education fail, and government dependency becomes a way of life:

And before anyone reflexively plays the race card, allow me to note that the large majority of both SSI (62 percent) and SSDI (77 percent) beneficiaries are white.  As the president hails his economic “recovery,” most voters disapprove of his job performance on economic matters.  One explanatory factor may be the fact that between 2009 and 2012, more Americans were added to federal disability rolls than found a job.  Avik Roy labels the resulting $200 billion in annual entitlement outlays a pernicious “disability industrial complex.”  Although President Obama has presided over historic levels of poverty and food stamp usage, the relaxation of disability eligibility requirements happened under one of his predecessors: Ronald Reagan.

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I’m shocked, I tell you. Shocked!

NoFanofLibs on July 31, 2013 at 12:35 PM

IT wouldn’t matter to a lot of those on disability if they could get health insurance.
The concept of physically working is not appealing to them.
Remember those signs at parks & in the woods about not feeding the wild animals?
Turns out, many wild animals become dependent and refuse to work for their food, as well. To their own detriment.

Badger40 on July 31, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Although President Obama has presided over historic levels of poverty and food stamp usage, the relaxation of disability eligibility requirements happened under one of his predecessors: Ronald Reagan.

At the insistence of the All-Rat Congress, and with the assurance that the Disability Insurance program (the “earned benefits” side of this equation) would never run out of money.

Of course, 8 years after that happened, DI ran out of money, and the Rats and Clinton had to rejigger the percentages of FICA/SECA that went into the two halves of SocSecurity to keep it afloat another 21-22 years. Yes, sports fans, DI will go Tango Uniform in either 2015 or 2016.

Steve Eggleston on July 31, 2013 at 12:56 PM

The majority on federal disability shouldn’t be on there.

nazo311 on July 31, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Why would they bother to look for work? 0bama has made it pretty lucrative to just sit on your a$$ and wait for your check each week.

UltimateBob on July 31, 2013 at 2:19 PM

I can never understand how these people can plop themselves onto disability so easily and then park there.

I have a friend who, after decades working in the church, eventually succumbed to a debilitating neurological disorder that has left him permanently disabled and unable to work. He is the kind of person these services are supposed to be FOR. And yet, it took years of legal battles with the system to get his status recognized, even more fighting to get the back pay for the time he spent resolving his issue, and when seeing statistics like this (and don’t get me wrong, they’re not living under a bridge or anything, they’re maintaining a nominal standard of living), I can’t help but wonder what kind of care and assistance he could get with the money that is being thrown down the toilet for people like these.

The Schaef on July 31, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I remember years ago, when I was in the Army in Hawaii, one of the local newspapers did a study, and found out that when you combine all of the various Federal, state, and local welfare programs (food stamps, SSDI, unemployment insurance, Section 8 housing vouchers, etc.), you actually end up with a higher overall income than an entry-level public school teacher in the same jurisdiction. So what incentive are we giving these folks to actually get off the dole and find work?

When you pay people for not working, not working becomes their job.

Hayabusa on July 31, 2013 at 2:43 PM

The author is missing a bit relative to emphasis on whether a disabled individual is interested in going back to work. If you are profoundly disabled (and there are some that have conditions so serious that they even bypass the administrative court nightmare), then most are realistic enough to figure out that you really aren’t going to be able to work again. It’s silly to assume that you would be planning on finding, holding, or progressing in a job, if you have a disability that disqualifies you from working in perpetuity.

As one who has a few graduate degrees (and no, I’m not an academic), I became disabled while making a higher six figure income. One does not walk away from that willingly, for the supposed luxuries of government disability. As a responsible conservative family guy I had always purchased my own disability insurance. After going disabled, my insurance company required me to apply for SSDI benefits. This was to offset some of their coverage. I’m not terribly happy to be dealing with Social Security Disability, since I tend to stay away from benefit programs, but I’m roped into it by my carrier.

Disability is not necessarily the universally abused welfare program it’s portrayed to be for some of us. Be careful of universal condemnations, that attempt to further political agendas.

corbeck on July 31, 2013 at 3:14 PM

I’ve heard it said that with the way both taxes and subsidies are right now you are better off on some form of federal welfare and taking advantage of the various “poverty” programs like food stamps etc. than you are working, until you pass 60K in yearly salary. At every other point up until then you are receiving less per month than someone on welfare + programs does.

Being someone who has only recently been able to crack the 60K mark I find this particularly frustrating. Who knew that I could have been living easy sitting at home making 60K in bennies instead of busting my arse for decades trying to work my way up? Kinda makes you feel like a sucker.

Then again, pretty much everything about life in America these days makes me feel like a sucker, so I guess this is no different.

wearyman on July 31, 2013 at 3:15 PM

This administration has been actively recruiting people to get on disability. It’s one way to skew the unemployment numbers – once you go on disability you don’t count as unemployed. There are many judges in West Virginia and elsewhere who are rubber stamps, approving anyone who applies. There are also thousands of doctors doling out medical disability certifications and taking kickbacks for them. Families in many cities that are already receiving welfare and food stamps are double- and triple-dipping the system by fraudulently claiming their children are mentally disabled so they can get more government checks.

Do a search for “how to get a crazy check” and see how many hits you get.

rockmom on July 31, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve a friend who’s fallen through the cracks. Can’t afford a doctor to certify her disability, too frakked up to work.

Not the first time a government program doesn’t do what is advertised.

The_Livewire on July 31, 2013 at 3:51 PM

My impression is that a lot of people on disability have just enough of a medical condition to prevent them being able to keep a job, yet they are just enough employed or semi-employed at the time of their illness to not qualify for Medicaid. So they are sort of caught. They get on disability so that they can get covered treatment for what may be a temporary medical condition, then they see little reason to go back to work even when able because what if they get sick again and lose the job? Then it would be back to disability anyway.

Like so many government goodies, it’s a lifesaver in the short term, and a life and wealth destroyer in the long term.

Missy on July 31, 2013 at 4:23 PM

My little brother (44 years old) hasn’t worked for almost 10 years – not because he can’t find a job, but because his current (3rd) wife is scamming SS disability and they don’t want to lose any of that free money by him going out and actually earning something.

Also, he used to be in decent shape – back when he had a job – but has now ballooned to at least 250 lbs or more – and it sure as hell aint muscle…..

dentarthurdent on July 31, 2013 at 8:57 PM

My little brother (44 years old) hasn’t worked for almost 10 years – not because he can’t find a job, but because his current (3rd) wife is scamming SS disability and they don’t want to lose any of that free money by him going out and actually earning something.

Also, he used to be in decent shape – back when he had a job – but has now ballooned to at least 250 lbs or more – and it sure as hell aint muscle…..

dentarthurdent on July 31, 2013 at 8:57 PM

That is an excuse, your brother can earn money and it will not affect his wife’s benefits. Perhaps he applied on his own.

Madisonian on July 31, 2013 at 10:06 PM

The Welfare State is very addictive…

mnjg on July 31, 2013 at 10:09 PM

That is an excuse, your brother can earn money and it will not affect his wife’s benefits. Perhaps he applied on his own.

Madisonian on July 31, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Of course it’s an excuse – he’s got lots of them.
Frankly he kind of disgusts me.
I think mnjg hit:

The Welfare State is very addictive…

mnjg on July 31, 2013 at 10:09 PM

dentarthurdent on July 31, 2013 at 10:48 PM

Clearly, more people have applied for disability during the last 5 years of high unemployment and long term unemployment. This article, however, lumps in unearned SSI with SSDI. Being an addict who never paid anything into social security or sly welfare parents having ADHD children added to the rolls for a few extra bucks really is not the same as unemployed people who have a disability, and have paid in, throwing in the towel and applying. Also, some of the questions are absurd, not being sure if your father completed HS or some college isn’t the same as not knowing your father, as the article deduces.

If they have actually been loosening the requirements, clearly it is only for the scammers, as far as I can tell from personal experience. Our daughter has had Multiple Sclerosis since she was 15 and we never contemplated applying for Social Security then. She worked from 18 to 24, also taking college classes on nights and weekends for two and a half years. Her condition deteriorated, she was able to do less and was eventually let go. When it became clear that she would not be able to return to work, she finally applied for SSDI. Foolishly, I did not retain a lawyer and just filled out the forms honestly. Unlike many I’ve seen skirt right through, she was declined and we appealed.

Here is a girl who wants to work, and more importantly has worked enough to qualify her for earned benefits, but physically cannot at this time, yet is put to the back of the line for over a year and a half. Since our daughter was declined, we know of 2 people approved with drug addictions, another with a questionable “mental problem” and one each of knee and back pains. The lawyers making a racket of scamming the system win this round.

Madisonian on July 31, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Madisonian on July 31, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Best wishes for your daughter.
Any kind of disability is supposed to be for people like your daughter.
It’s unfortunate that scammers, like my brother and his wife, take advantage of it and ruin it for those who really need and deserve it.

dentarthurdent on August 1, 2013 at 1:07 AM

wearyman on July 31, 2013 at 3:15 PM

As someone who is right around the $60K mark and works my butt off, and doesn’t get a dime of government assistance, I find it irritating how many people are just as well or better off without earning it.

My situation is my wife has severe fibromyalgia and a couple other legitimate health conditions and has multiple Dr. appt’s just about every week, and cannot really work any consistent schedule, and at times has to take medications that make her drowsy and it’s unsafe to drive. Try getting a job under those conditions. She legitimately SHOULD be who the disability program is for, but because she stayed home to raise our kids and be a loving foster parent (before the fibro kicked in the last few years), she never had enough earnings to qualify on one the one side, and I make enough money that she can’t qualify on the unearned disability side.

So we have medical bills piling up, and we moved to Southern California where the weather helps at least some with the fibromyalgia. The best rate for two-bedroom apartments around here is about $1600/month, almost half of my take home pay after $900 gets taken out of my check for health insurance through my employer. There is literally no way with the medical bills to make it in this area on a $60K income, and I can’t in good conscience push my wife hard to work when I know she’s in so much pain and just trying to make it through each day. Plus working means paying more for day care for the kids than she can make on a part time job, if someone was willing to hire her and allow her a ton of flexibility on work hours. We could move to a less expensive place to live, but that would mean more pain for her.

Sorry, I got sidetracked. What I wanted to say is that people who are not legitimately disabled should not be getting disability payments.

willamettevalley on August 1, 2013 at 4:05 AM

And before anyone reflexively plays the race card, allow me to note that the large majority of both SSI (62 percent) and SSDI (77 percent) beneficiaries are white.

Since he pointed it out…if 62% of SSI recipients are white that would mean that 38% are well…not white. And, if blacks are 12-13% of the population then the potential exists that they are over-represented in this population. Unless we have a whole lot of Pacific Islanders or Orientals that are in this program of course. Is that too reflexive?

SoonerMarine on August 1, 2013 at 12:02 PM

SoonerMarine on August 1, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Well, per the Census Bureau, non-Hispanic whites are 63% of the population, Hispanics are about 17%, African American/blacks are 13% and Asians are 5%, so representation appears pretty evenly distributed.

cam2 on August 1, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Sorry, cite: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

cam2 on August 1, 2013 at 10:13 PM

as well as a few insights into the real, heartbreaking struggles some enrollees face:

yes.. but our families as well.

Look I had worked from the day I turned 16 until the second accident made that impossible. The injury in 04, fractured spine, 7 vertebrae crushed, 8 discs bulging or ruptured, along with the first injury in 91 granting me degenerative disc disease, advanced arthritis of the spine, and several pinched nerves, sciatica, I haven’t felt parts of my feet in years, walking has become increasingly painful and difficult since then, and now, I can only walk very short lengths before my leg goes completely numb, and dysfunctional. Workers comp covers my medical bills for the large part, medicare the small bits not accident related.. and from the time the bones set, until 06, I tried desperately to keep working.. on three different pain meds, I bit through it and did my best.. but my employer decided I was “expensive”.. and found a way to kick me to the curb, they weren’t shy about it.

We lost our home, and drifted homeless from family to family, my wife working her heart out as I went through surgeries, and rehab.. the whole time, I was stupidly stubborn, trying to find work, and no one, would hire someone my age, with such heavy restrictions.. and finely as we ended up with the family of a “friend”, paying rent from my wife’s check..

I had to face reality, and do it not for me, but my wife and children who suffered being homeless with me. I applied, and was approved with no hearings or doctors of their choosing in 3 months.. first try. The documentation was that complete. The injuries undeniable, there was nothing I could do with the restrictions they put on me, without a lot of college to get a desk job with no physical requirements.. if there is such a thing.

and the treatment and possible surgeries still linger ahead of me..

My wife still works full-time, my kids are recovering from the trauma of so many moves in 3 years.. adjusting back into a stable home life.. and I feel guilty sick hang dog ashamed.. ashamed I broke myself this badly, that I can’t work anymore. I miss it, my entire self pride was wrapped up in being as aggressively as good at my job as possible, the go to guy, the anchorman..

and that’s all gone now, I have children.. children, stepping in and saying..”no Uncle Mark, I’ll lift that for you”.. you have no idea how much that shames me.. God love those innocent babies for having heart, but it still shames me..

I’d saw a limb off to be able to work again,.. with all the folks on SSDI now, for such minor issues, I’m tired of people on hearing I’m on it.. giving me that ” I wonder if he’s a faker too”… look. I have spent my life taking care of family, first my father’s when he took ill, my own.. and now, people are looking after me, if not financially now, with concern I’ll hurt myself again, trying to do what I used too so easily.. we aren’t wealthy by any stretch, 40,000 between us both, but we’re frugal and live comfortably… buying nothing on credit, and paying our bills on time.. but in the lowest part of the working poor.. we SEEM rich to my wife’s family, the children.. and that perception means we’re under constant assault from folks asking that we help them,.. and as much as common sense says no.. we do anyway, taking in the homeless sister in law and her kids, because we won’t let them go through what we did..

I understand the abuses, I’ve seen them on this side.. people in the MD’s office, bitterly complaining about how they should be getting more for an unknown backache they can’t diagnose.. can’t find any source for,.. no MRI’s or X-Rays to back it up.. I see the doctors minimum, two a month, sometimes three, and the scammers are always the ones complaining, people who have the real injuries, strangely enough, never say much, or make a scene about their issue..

Of asked, if I have a goal of working again someday, my answer is, yes, that is my ultimate goal.. after the current medical issues reach their end,.. around the time my kids are in high school.. soon.. I plan to seek out the VA and see what college aid or advice there is for a 54 year old vet, who’d like to see if teaching is something I could do.. I’d have to work past 65, just to justify the investment, but I’m prepared to do that..

because the only thing you have, when your life is a long unending wall of physical pain, is hope..

hope for your children’s future..
hope you can make your wife happy, proud..
hope you can feel like a man again,..
hope, that you have that last part of what made you enlist inside you, and you CAN do this.. can take that last hill..

I didn’t come from a broken home.. my father died of a long wasting disease which put me into the role of head of the family at 17.. paying his bill’s, helping raise my siblings.. what so shames me most, is quitting was never in my family, and not working feels like quitting.. so I hang onto the hope I can work again..

with no hope, you’re dead in every way that counts to those who need you, and I’m not done being needed yet.

mark81150 on August 2, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Sorry, I got sidetracked. What I wanted to say is that people who are not legitimately disabled should not be getting disability payments.

willamettevalley on August 1, 2013 at 4:05 AM

agreed..

It’s way to easy now, with the restrictions before Obama, most applicants were rejected, as being able to work within their area of experience, post Obama, they take damn near everyone who applies and has an attorney.

The numbers I saw, say the number of SSDI payees has doubled in his 5 years, a bad economy cannot be the only reason for that, we’ve had bad recessions before, and this hasn’t happened.

The truism among those of us on SSDI, is that when the people on it, say it’s like winning the Lotto, they shouldn’t be on it. I hear that a lot, “OH.. you are so LUCKY not having to work anymore”..

well… let me ask you, if the price you pay for free money, is the pain your wife feels, I feel, so many feel, then “work” looks pretty damned attractive if the pain would go away, wouldn’t you think?

people who say that, are blessed they don’t know deep inside the cost of the illnesses and injuries that qualify you. It’s expensive, the grey hair too early, the haunted, hunted look, the gun shy reflexes that sudden noise or movement around you will bring more pain.. the feeling like a kicked dog all the time..

yeah buddy, so easy livin this life..

and from what you’ve written, I’m sure you understand.. the ignorance of the lazy, looking for any opt out, and not knowing the price that such injuries take from you.

mark81150 on August 2, 2013 at 7:44 AM

Once a person qualifies for SSI, there is a very strong incentive to avoid work. Work, even for a few weeks, would remove the person from the SSI rolls and require going through the hassle of qualifying all over again.

I had a friend who has been collecting SSI for over 20 years. Not really a close friend anymore, as we don’t have a thing in common except some shared experiences in the 60s and early 70s. He can’t work now but he could have until the last couple years. Instead he collected cans and bottles from dumpsters to earn spending money.

J Baustian on August 6, 2013 at 10:51 AM