I was going to spend part of this afternoon writing a Blog rebutting the shameful attacks made in last night’s 60 Minutes story. The television segment sought to portray Social Security Disability beneficiaries as freeloaders who are gaming a system that is “ravaged by waste and fraud”.
However, as I was preparing to write, I was “interrupted” by a visit to my office from Carlos, a client who has an SSD hearing coming up this November. (I have changed my client’s name for obvious confidentiality reasons.) Before Carlos came to my office, I thought that I was going to write a blog pointing out all the statistical reasons why there has been an increase in Social Security Disability claims. Among other things, I was going to explain that 60 Minutes misrepresented the number of Social Security Disability beneficiaries and that the reason for the increase in claims stems from demographic changes in our society.
More importantly, I was also going to explain that it is inappropriate to use mere anecdotal statements to criticize a program as important as SSDI. As an advocate for the disabled, I maintain that it is incorrect to draw broad conclusions from a few sensational stories of fraud or abuse. Then, as Carlos’ visit was about to end, it occurred to me that instead of writing about numbers and statistics, I should write a blog that gives Mr. Kroft, Senator Coburn, and the rest of the CBS crew a taste of their own medicine. Why not write a Blog about Carlos’ ordeal with the Social Security Administration? Why not blog about a real life anecdote of what an SSD claimant goes through? This is precisely the most important perspective that the 60 Minute story failed to portray. It is appalling that they did a piece criticizing Social Security Disability claimants without interviewing a single disabled person.
As I helped Carlos get out of his chair and ushered him carefully to the front door for fear that he might fall, I became and angry and wondered: “Why isn’t Steve Kroft here filming this? Why doesn’t he come over to Hartford and Springfield and film the dozens of Carlos’s that are desperately waiting to receive benefits? Why doesn’t Kroft have the courage to stand in front of people like my client --who lives in constant pain and has obvious difficulties walking--, and ask in his FoxNewesque and arrogant tone: “Hey Carlos, isn’t it really easy to get SSDI benefits?”
The story that Kroft would get from people like Carlos is far more convincing that the campaign of hate waged against the disabled by a few powerful figures like Senator Coburn. Carlos’ story is the farthest thing from that of a person who is trying to “game” the system. Before Carlos became injured, he was a driver of eighteen wheeler trucks. He put in many hours of overtime, driving all over the snowy roads of Western Massachusetts and Worcester County. (He got badly injured in an accident. His shoulder is now almost completely frozen.) He is the proud father of two children. No one can call him a freeloader. In fact, after driving trucks, he went to school to learn how to be a diesel mechanic. He eventually found a higher paying job fixing large trucks. Unfortunately, he got reinjured shortly after starting the mechanic job and, after thinking it over for a long time, he had no other option but to apply for disability.
As Carlos was leaving, he asked the usual litany of questions that most my clients ask me: why do people like me have to wait two years to get to a hearing? Do you think we will win the case? Will I get food stamps?
I should not have to listen to these questions all by myself. Is there anyone from the news media willing to join me? Forget about CBS; they have lost all credibility. Are there any responsible journalists brave enough to listen to the questions raised by those who have been abused by the Social Security Disability bureaucrats? Are they willing to talk to thousands of people like Carlos whose voices are not being heard?
Important note: Michael Hiltzik a Pulitzer winning business columnist for the LA Times has written an outstanding article debunking the baseless allegations made by 60 Minutes and Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Please read: “60Minutes” A Shameful Attack on the Disabled.