In 1936, when the original Social Security Act went into effect, sharecropper and folk musician John Handcox wrote a song about the desperate times Americans faced during the Depression: “There are mean things happening in this land/ Though the rich man boasts and brags/ while the poor man goes in rags/ there are mean things happening in this land.” Franklin Roosevelt’s Social Security legislation sought to soften those mean times. In 1950, Social Security was expanded to include a minimum safety net for the disabled.
In the News
More than 14 million American workers depend on the Social Security Disability Insurance program for life-sustaining funds needed to help pay their basic living expenses. Yet recent media attacks have tried to color opinions of this effective social insurance program that provides much-needed economic security and access to health care for individuals whose impairments are so severe that they cannot work.
As someone who has advocated for and represented Social Security Disability claimants for more than 30 years, I'm more than familiar with the facts and figures. But more importantly, I've heard the life stories of countless neighbors here in Ohio and know the truth about the SSDI benefits -- they are a vital safety net for American workers. Take John, age 47, for example. He had his own tree-cutting business and, when he was in too much pain, tried working as a salesman at Kmart. John developed herniated discs in both his neck and lower back. Objective medical tests proved that his herniated discs were severely affecting nerves in both his left arm and leg. John's pain means that he can barely move, needs to change position every 15 to 20 minutes and is brought to tears several times a day. John's benefits will allow his family to keep their home.
In the weeks since its flawed series on America’s disability benefit programs aired, NPR has been silent in the face of a huge flood of criticism and complaint, dismay and outrage, from diverse and respected sources. Meanwhile, new information has emerged to show that reporter Chana Joffe-Walt’s sourcing was even more dramatically slanted - and NPR’s apparent ethical breaches even more severe - than anyone initially realized.
BY MICHAEL P. BOYLE, ESQ.
I wrote last week about an NPR story, “Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America” (see http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/). In response to the story, eight former Commissioners of SSA issued a joint response (see http://nosscr.org/open-letter-former-commissioners-social-security-administration).
NPR Acknowledges backlash received on its reporting on Social Security Disability
Last week we posted a response about the recent dramatic, sensationalized media reports about the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs, based on anecdotes, half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. One of these harmful stories included a recent story called "Unfit for Work" which aired on National Public Radio.
NPR has just posted a number of responses to the issues raised in their story at http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/04/18/177745599/former-social-security-commissioners-and-others-respond-to-our-disability-story.
You will note that many of the responses point out that NPR's reporting on the issue was misleading and paints an inaccurate picture of Social Security programs. NOSSCR's response is available on our website.
The past few weeks have seen dramatic, sensationalized media reports about the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, based on anecdotes, half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) is compelled to set the record straight about the program – which serves as a vital resource for millions of Americans.
Jonah Goldberg proposed in his opinion piece published April 3 that every Social Security disability recipient submit to “a medical test” to confirm disability. That statement assumes, incorrectly, that there is one medical test that can determine disability. There is no such dipstick.
Disability must be based on a medically determinable impairment, but the administration also must consider education, age and skill level if the impairment is not on a list of conditions deemed automatically disabling (found in Chapter 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations), or if the individual cannot return to past work.
In a letter dated April 4, 2013, eight former Commissioners of the Social Security Administration have expressed their concerns about the very misleading and inaccurate series that was broadcast last week on NPR. That letter appears on our website.The former Commissioners have presented the facts that should have been reported. We and others in the disability community are continuing to work hard on correcting the misinformation and errors that the series contained.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, of which NOSSCR is a member, has published a response, "Unfit for NPR - Let's Get the Facts Straight on Disability" which is posted on CCD's webpage. Over 100 groups have signed on to this joint statement.
The former SSA Commissioners' open letter to NPR was featured on MSNBC Friday April 5, 2013, on All In with Chris Hayes. Immediate past Commissioner Michael Astrue was featured in the segment and did a wonderful job of articulating the concerns with NPR's series and pushing back against many of the misconceptions about the programs' growth. Rebecca Vallas, Esq. of Community Legal Services joined him in the segment, with Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute.
You can watch the video online: it is in two segments, one titled "Deconstructing the Jobs Numbers" and the other "Disability is Not the New Welfare."
The least-known Social Security program will run out of funds in three years, possibly affecting 11 million Americans. Washington should stop wringing its hands.
Mystery ALJ Policy Ends April 20, 2013
NOSSCR is delighted to report that ODAR will, once again, provide the name of the ALJ assigned to each case beginning April 20, 2013.
Congressional interest in advocating that the policy of non-disclosure of ALJ names be rescinded was very important. We thank all of you who brought this matter to your Congressional delegation.
It is clear that successful FOIA litigation increased the pressure to rescind the policy.
The email we received from ODAR follows:
As we discussed this morning, we have reviewed our decision to not disclose the name of the ALJ assigned to hear a case until the day of the hearing. We are making the following changes as a result of our review:
- Beginning on April 20, the agency will resume disclosing the name of the ALJ assigned to a hearing when it sends out a Notice of Hearing. (Note: Under our rules, we must send out this Notice at least twenty days before the hearing, but typically we send it out 60-90 days prior to the hearing.)
- In addition, beginning on April 20, we will add the ALJ's name to the Appointed Representative Services (ARS) internet application. ARS users represent claimants in about 85% of all represented cases currently pending in ODAR.
- We encourage representatives who are not signed up for ARS to ask about registering in their local hearing office. Registered ARS users can access up-to-date electronic folders for their clients, download hearing recordings, and access case status and scheduling information in one convenient location.