CEPR Defends Social Security Disability System After ’60 Minutes’ Story

Media outlets have been running numerous stories alleging fraud in the Social Security disability system, with the latest piece airing on the television show “60 Minutes.” The “60 Minutes” report was described as a “spinoff” of a story on “This American Life” that suggested an increase in disability applications and an increase in benefits has occurred due to workers exaggerating or lying about disabilities. 2-annual-reports-3-1088940-m

As any Social Security Disability lawyer in New York knows, the stories suggesting fraud problems with the Social Security Disability System include many inaccurate and false assumptions that show a failed understanding of how the disability benefits program operates.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research repudiated the claims made on “60 Minutes” and in “This American Life,” presenting facts to point out the problem with assumptions being made in these reports.

Refuting Claims of Fraud in the Social Security Disability System

CEPR identifies several pieces of evidence to refute the claims of high numbers of fraudulent disability benefits applications being approved.  One of the strongest arguments that fraud is very limited within the SSD system is the difficulty in actually receiving benefits.  Around three-quarters of all applicants seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration have their claims denied. Even after appealing, almost 60 percent of people seeking benefits still do not receive them.

The high denial rate exists because the definition of disability is narrow and because the rules are strict regarding the evidence a disabled person must present to be approved for benefits. Applicants must have licensed physician specialists provide detailed medical records showing the patient exhibits required symptoms associated with their specific condition, which means there is very little room for  fraudulent claims.   In fact, even many individuals with legitimate medical issues and a real need for disability benefits do not have their claims approved, especially if they try to apply on their own without an attorney to guide them through the SSD application process.

CEPR also quotes a study from the University of Michigan that undermines the allegations of fraud in the SSD system. The University of Michigan Study identified a group of applicants considered “marginal” because they might be either approved or turned down for benefits depending upon the opinion of the SSA hearing officer assigned to the case.  The researchers found that 23 percent of all applicants for SSD benefits could be classified as “marginal” and that just 28 percent of these individuals were working two years later if their benefits claim was denied.  Four years after their applications for benefits had been denied, just 16 percent were working.

In other words, even most people who do not get SSD benefits are still not able to work because of their severe medical conditions. Based on this study, CEPR has estimated that less than seven percent of new applicants for SSD benefits would be working within two years, even if the disability benefits programs didn’t exist.   People don’t work because they cannot work, and this is not a fault of fraud within the disability system but instead is the sad reality of an aging population and an aging workforce prone to suffering from serious medical ailments.

If you are disabled and cannot work, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today by calling (800) 692-3717 or completing the online contact form.


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