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TV Report Distorts Facts of SSDI Program

2013 October 8
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by Steve Perrigo

On Oct. 6, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired “Disability, USA,” a program providing information that continued to perpetuate a number of inaccuracies and misperceptions about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) that began with a series of Wall Street Journal articles in 2011. This story was also strikingly similar to an April story on National Public Radio (NPR) titled “Unfit For Work: The Startling Rise Of Disability In America.” While these cursory stories present elements of truth, they contain flaws and run the risk of significant harm to people with disabilities. Both stories fail to grasp some of the basic elements of the SSDI program that are easily researchable and understandable. Consider the true facts regarding SSDI:

  • SSDI is not welfare. The “I” stands for insurance. It is an earned benefit, funded by taxpayers and employers as insurance, with taxes going toward premiums to receive this benefit if the individual should experience a severe, long-term disability.
  • The typical SSDI applicant must navigate through multiple levels and many review processes over a two- to three-year period before it is determined that he is eligible for benefits. Two-thirds of applicants are denied benefits when they first apply.
  • Legitimate representatives like Allsup actually minimize fraud and abuse by thoroughly screening potential customers. The vast majority of representatives are honest and hard-working.
  • Representatives are paid by the individuals who hire them, not the government. Fees are normally only paid if they win benefits and are capped by law at $ 6,000 per award.
  • Multiple studies have shown that demographics are responsible for a significant increase in the number of people seeking SSDI benefits. However, the rates of approval have actually declined over the past four years.
  • 8.9 million disabled workers receive SSDI benefits they earned, not 12 million as reported.
  • Congress has reduced SSA’s resources to handle program integrity—including continuing disability reviews (CDRs), which would help determine if existing beneficiaries should keep receiving benefits. These efforts have been estimated to potentially reduce the size of the SSDI program by 12 percent.
  • SSA’s Office of Inspector General recently reported they received 59,000 allegations of fraud during a six month period. Of those, they confirmed fraud in just 2,068 cases. Fraud is present, but minimal.

Congressional committees, among other groups, continue to investigate the SSDI program with efforts centered on improving program integrity and returning more people to work. It remains to be seen what will happen at the federal level to harness real opportunities to improve this program and make a difference for people with disabilities in our country. In the end, Allsup will continue to offer the True Help® that we have always provided to our customers. We help those truly eligible to receive their benefits, and we help educate those who are not eligible understand why.

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