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The disabled are an easy target

One of our recent blog posts discussed the efforts of a Florida congressman to demonize those who apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. However, Rep. West is not the only person in this camp. Numerous national media commentators have also jumped on the bandwagon, including Frank Bruni in a New York Times column.

Like many of those who criticize the disabled, Bruni adjusts facts to fit his argument. He writes that the growth in the number of people applying for and collecting SSD reflects the development of a culture of selfishness and greed. What he doesn't mention is that the average monthly SSD benefit is around $1,000, which represents a significant reduction in income for most workers who apply for SSD. In short, they are not getting rich from SSD, and in most instances will be below the poverty level. They would almost certainly work if they could.

Another Bruni complaint is that the number of people receiving SSD has increased out of proportion to the growth in the U.S. population. One answer to this is, "So what?" The number of people receiving disability has never been equal to the number of disabled. According to some estimates, there are more than 50 million people with mental, emotional or physical disabilities in the U.S. However, only 8.7 million of them receive SSD, reflecting the fact that only people who have actually paid into the SSD system are eligible for disability benefits.

There are others who seem very willing to complain about the disabled. George F. Will, whose son has Down's Syndrome, wrote a sarcastic piece last year about a class being offered at Yale University focused on how people with disabilities are portrayed in fiction. Film critic Roger Ebert in a recent blog post about the Colorado shootings suggested that all people with mental illness are homicidal. Similarly, David Brooks wrote, "The truly disturbed have always been with us, but their outbursts are now taking more malevolent forms." Although Brooks and Ebert represent both ends of the political spectrum, their views on those disabled by mental illness are sadly similar.

At Binder & Binder®, the national Social Security Disability advocates, we never judge our clients. Rather, we help them get the disability benefits to which they are entitled.

Source: Huffington Post, "Some Are Too Quick to Criticize the Disabled," by David Vognar, July 26, 2012.

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