Economy

Is the Social Security System Becoming the New Welfare?

I came across an interesting article from NPR that other day titled Unfit For Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America.

It’s definitely worth a read.

While I cannot speak for the nation as a whole, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my small area. I’ve noticed a rise in multi-generational Disability recipients.

People I have known for years go on SSD or SSI for various reasons. Within a span of months or years I’ve watched their adult children join the program…

…And now I’m seeing the grandchildren of the original applicants being added to the Social Security program.

While some of these people have obvious disabilities (working in a factory or simply standing on your feet all day can damage the body over time), the newer ones I’m seeing have claims that aren’t near as clear.

I’m witnessing bright, active children being placed on Disability because they are considered “learning deficient.”

I didn’t think anything about this until I encountered a young man I’ll call Tim. Tim had been placed on Disability by his parents when he was a child; he had been taught that he’d never be able to hold down a job, so he drifted through life with his young wife who was also on Disability (I don’t know the reason she received it).

Tim moved in with a friend of mine when his marriage deteriorated. My friend started asking questions, approaching me with the puzzle: he could find no real reason why this active, intelligent man should be considered disabled. Would I get to know the guy and make my own decision?

I talked to Tim but resolved to stay out of it. I was still a bit bitter over the lack of help I’d received when I suffered an injury several years back and knew that I was biased.

I watched, however. My friend began to point out to Tim that he may not be as disabled as he’d been led to believe. I don’t know the exact context of these conversations but I do know this:

Within six months Tim acquired a job in a local factory.

It’s been over a year since Tim started working. I see him on a regular basis as he goes through my line at the store. He’s happier now than he’s ever been. He’s acquired a vehicle, rents a small apartment, and just glows when he shares how happy he is to be standing on his own feet.

He’s making more money now than he ever dreamed he could.

After reading the article I mentioned earlier I am seriously beginning to wonder: is the Social Security Disability system becoming the new welfare? Are the Welfare Queens of old shifting from state benefit programs to the national disability system so that they can hide beneath the honorable excuse of being unable to work?

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

3 Comments

  • Linda Sand

    I can only say that, as children, we believe what our parents tell us. If Tim’s parents told him he would never be able to hold a job, why wouldn’t he believe that?

    Another thing I see happening is welfare moms who only get support until their children turn 18 so those children in turn get pregnant to keep the benefits coming. Disability lasts for iife so why wouldn’t people want that instead?

  • Karen

    I saw or heard a program a couple of years ago that said doctors in depressed areas of the country were certifying people for SS disability because there simply weren’t any jobs to be had. Our welfare system, while better than nothing, is little help if you don’t have dependent children. Apparently there are parts of the country (West Virginia comes to mind as the subject of the program I saw) that have lost all economic opportunities and people who got hurt on the job or were psychologically unable to work for a while were going on permanent disability. That way, they stay in their communities, their homes, and out of the worst poverty. Is it the best way to address a systemic failure in our country? No. As you pointed out, it destroys dignity and self esteem. But it also points to a larger societal problem that we don’t dare try to address: making sure everyone who’s able has access to a job that pays a living wage.
    I’m so sorry you had such a hard time when you were first disabled. I can only imagine the resentment I’d feel if I saw generations of families getting a free handout when I couldn’t get the help I legitimately needed.
    In my case, my grandson sometimes gets SSD because he has autism. Whether he gets it depends on his parents’ income. Sometimes he qualifies and sometimes he doesn’t. I don’t know how often he gets reviewed. Probably annually. My daughter and son in law have no health insurance for themselves because they live in a state that didn’t expand Medicaid. Fortunately, the children do have Medicaid. I think theirs is a case where the SS Disability is justified. He will never be able to work. Disability is a part of the SS program that most people don’t know about or think of. You’re not only paying into Social Security for yourself, but for your dependent spouse or children if you become unable to work or die. It may need reform or oversight – certainly the cases you’ve seen where there’s no reason why someone can’t work – but I’m really glad it’s a part of our flawed social safety net.