Facts: Dangerous things in the right hands

October 09, 2012 Government Regulation No comment

My new hero (heroine?) is a scholar named Kathy A. Ruffing. She works for a group called “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities” which is – according to its website- “(O)ne of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.”

Simply put, Ms. Ruffin researches how this country’s economic policies affect our poor. Her latest paper – 24 pages in length, replete with charts and graphs- is entitled “Social Security Disability Insurance is Vital to Workers with Severe Impairments.” Why would she write such a paper? Simply put again, Social Security Disability as a Federal program is under attack. Some critics have charged that spending on the program is “out of control.” Note that the present Republican candidate for President has constantly railed against the U.S. becoming the “Entitlement Society.” However, Kathy addresses these allegations with an interesting approach: using facts. Like these well-researched nuggets:

– Disability recipients receive modest benefits. The average monthly benefit in 2011 was $1,111- or $13,326 per year.

-Most recipients depend upon their disability benefits for their subsistence. Disability benefits make up more than 90 percent of income for nearly half of non-institutionalized recipients, and more than 75% of income for the vast majority.

-If recipients could actually perform work- which they are allowed to do under SSA’s work incentive programs- they would. There is no disincentive in the program for recipients to try to work for up to 9 months (there is no loss of payments in such cases) but few do.

-Fewer than half of applications are ultimately allowed, often after prolonged appeal. Eligibility criteria are quite stringent.

-Even rejected applicants fare poorly in the job market.

Basically, Ms. Ruffing uses statistics melded with logical arguments to show that Social Security Disability is a bedrock program for our country’s disabled and poor and it should not be messed with. The politicians need to find ways to keep it vibrant and healthy, in the long-term. And those are the facts.

A link to her article: http://www.cbpp.org/files/8-9-12ss.pdf

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