Rep. Darryl Issa has taken a short break from his Benghazi and IRS tantrums. His target this time is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The program is running short of money, not the first time, and is need of an injection. Rep. Issa’s plan is to use his “divide and conquer” theory to pit older Americans against those who are on SSDI.
So, he is holding another hearing trying to show that the Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who hear disability cases as being a “rubber stamp” for those who don’t want to work, but rather go on the public dole. He says that if we don’t cut the SSDI program with “fundamental changes” the entire Social Security system will collapse. Here is using the “fear” that he likes to generate to pit one group of deserving Americans against another group of deserving Americans.
The AFL/CIO has recently put out some information about the SSDI program. It is called the 13 Things You Need to Know About SSDI. Here is a reprint of those 13 things.
1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.
2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.
3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.
4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.
5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.
6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.
7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes. 5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.
8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.
9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.
10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.
11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.
12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.
13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:
31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.
29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.
8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.
9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.
20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems
Why another attack on Social Security? The Republicans have a total hatred for any social safety net. They don’t care if the elderly or the disabled have enough money to live. They seem to cherish the idea of being cruel to them. And why not? Being cruel to people who are disabled and cannot work seems to be quite popular among Tea Party members, many of whom are disabled themselves (but, of course, they deserve their benefits while others do not.) Recall this nauseating display of cruelty during the health care debate:
At one point, a man with a sign saying he has Parkinson’s disease and needs help sat down in front of the reform opponents. Several protesters mocked the man, calling him a “communist,” with one derisively “throwing money at him.” “If you’re looking for a handout you’re in the wrong end of town,” another man said.
Of course these people hide behind their religiosity and alleged fealty to the teachings of the Bible. Maybe they should go back to their Sunday School Classes and relearn:
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven — Matthew 18:10
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Although I doubt that either of these phrases were actually taught in their “cherry-picked” bible school classes in the first place. If they were, maybe cruelty to the less fortunate wouldn’t be a so rampant on the right.