Letter: Obscure causes of disability claims

Social Security cards Social Security cards Photo Credit: iStock

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In his op-ed "We need to rethink disability policy" [Opinion, Aug. 1], Charles Lane parrots conservative attacks on Social Security Disability Insurance.

Among other things, Lane wrote that SSD applications have increased because "laid off workers turn to disability when unemployment benefits run out." Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, made the same offensive statement last year in the Newsday article "Soc. Sec. disability in peril" [News, Aug. 22]. The article discussed how the Social Security Disability program is in financial trouble as aging baby boomers and laid-off workers file large numbers of claims.

Lane concedes that some of the increase in applications is due to the aging of the population. One should expect disability claims to increase as more people near retirement age, since older workers are more likely to have medical problems that render them unable to work. However, Lane ignores the obvious: that applications have increased in large part because the population has grown. Furthermore, he overlooks that many laid-off workers were allowed to work with special accommodations, especially those who had developed good will with employers over many years.

The crux of Lane's argument is that our Social Security Disability policy must change because it provides too much incentive for people not to work. He states that the average monthly benefit is $1,100, or $13,200 a year. According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the poverty level for a family of three is $19,090. It hardly seems that Social Security Disability policy is providing an incentive for people to feign that they are incapable of working.

Jeffrey Delott, Jericho

Editor's note: The writer is a lawyer who handles disability claims.

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