Out of Touch with America

Sherrill Fulghum By Sherrill Fulghum, 20th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/4590y_lr/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

Recent actions in Congress not only show a lack of understanding of the system; but also a gross lack of respect and disregard for the constituents they serve.

Disability

There are over 50 million American citizens with a disability of some kind or another. And with the continuing “wars” being fought that number is growing daily.

The total unemployment rate for the American population with disabilities stands at over 75%. Granted some of those 75% are unable to work due to the nature of the disability. But there are also quite a number of people who would like nothing more than to be gainfully employed but cannot get hired – over 16% of them. Whether it be discrimination or ignorance, many people equate the term disability with having a moronic IQ and incapable of doing anything including having a job. A simple case in point is the person whose speech is not quite clear or who uses unfamiliar phrases – like many sports figures – and the public automatically assumes that the person is nothing more than a “dumb Jock”. But true sports fans know that there are few if any positions on a team where the “dumb jock” would be able to remain on the team if he were as “dumb” as some Facebook commentators believe.

For that vast majority of people with disabilities who are unable to work or no longer have a job, there are few options for survival. If the person was lucky enough to have a job in the first place he or she may be able to collect Social Security Disability Benefits; others may qualify for Social Security Supplemental Income. The two programs are very different with different sets of rules and eligibility requirements.

The massive layoffs due to downsizing and outsourcing have added to the number of people on the Social Security roles. Older workers are being replaced by younger less expensive workers; leaving some with no other recourse than to turn to Social Security...including Disability.

Congress

Over the past six years, both houses of Congress have seemingly gone out of their way NOT to conduct any business other than seeing how much trouble they could cause for the President. However; they no sooner file into Washington DC for the 2015 session and immediately begin attacking the Social Security system – a system they do not contribute to – and the people who use it.

According to Kentucky Representative Rand Paul, “the thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain." Paul is way off on his numbers according to the Social Security Administration - who does not have anxiety or back ache as a separate entity – has mental disabilities and musculoskeletal disabilities lumped into bigger categories and even THAT totals less than 40% of the disabled population.

Only a small percentage of people who have been certified as having a disability have an issue that is not readily visible; disabilities go far beyond wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and prosthetic limbs.

There are a number of issues with Paul's statement – and those of his ilk – beginning with their perception of a person with a disability and what constitutes that disability.

Those misconceptions have led the House of Representatives to pass a ruling that would severely limit funding available to the Social Security Administration and their ability to pay recipients the money they are due. When the Social Security Fund was originally established, it was in a separate account that was only used for paying recipients; but that fund was moved to a general account and Congress has been dipping their hand into the Social Security Cookie Jar for decades, helping themselves to whatever money they wanted for their pet projects. So now, Social Security has a money issue.

If the Republican led Congress gets their way, SSA will not be able to transfer funding between accounts in order to cover payments. If that happens, then the Social Security Disability Income account will run out next year and recipients will have to take a significant cut in payments – 20%. For someone who received $1,000 per month in benefits that would mean a cut of $200 each month. Just to illustrate...members of Congress earned a minimum of $174.000 per year – that's $14,500 per month!

Social Security

Just to be clear – a person CANNOT receive Social Security Disability Benefits unless they have worked and paid into the system. The benefits are determined by how much time the person worked – at least 25% of their adult life - and the amount they made and paid into the system. Despite the numerous television commercials with “attorneys” touting how they can get a person their disability check each month; the qualifications are strict and must be certified by multiple medical personnel. Contrary to what the politicians...and some journalists...believe, people with disabilities are not lazy bums looking for a handout. Less than half of all applications for disability are approved.

Paul believes that over half of the people receiving Social Security Disability are “faking” and milking the system when in actuality the SSA “watchdog” has determined that less than 1% of those receivng SSDI are frauding the system.

The average monthly income of an American with a Disability on SSDI is $1,130 per month – barely over the amount the federal government deems the poverty line – or less than the minimum wage for a 40 hour work week.

Social Security Supplemental Income is funded by federal taxes not Social Security and is intended for people who are aged, blind, or have a disability but have not been able to work or have not worked enough to collect SSDI. SSI is also given to children with disabilities to help with basic needs and care. Reviews are done on a regular basis to ensure the money is going to care for the child in the manner it was intended. Since SSI is drawn from tax money and not Social Security funds, recipients may receive payments without having paid into the system.

Social Security Retirement Benefits and SSDI Benefits can only be drawn by people who have paid into the system during their working lives. Their income is based on work record and income.

Something else that Paul and his cronies have failed to understand that by potentially cutting SSDI recipients funding, these recipients will have to turn to other sources in order to make ends meet each month; places like Social Services further putting a burden on taxes. If the current Congressional plan does go through and SSDI payments are cut as much as anticipated, then many recipients will see their incomes fall low enough to qualify for Medicaid – a system that is already stretched to the breaking point – where their medical costs will be covered. A cut of $200 a month will also place a bigger burden on the Food Stamp program; because food money is going to have to come from someplace.

The current House of Representatives “tweaking” of the Social Security law not only shows a gross lack of understanding into the necessity of the Social Security system; but also just how far out of touch the current Congress is with their constituents. At a minimum of $14,500 per month a member of Congress makes more in one month than the average Social Security recipient.

Tags

Americans, Americans With Disabilities, Congress, House Of Representatives, Social Security, Social Security Disabilitiy, Social Security Supplemental Income, Ssdi

Meet the author

author avatar Sherrill Fulghum
Sherrill is an award winning journalist with a speciality in music and entertainment. She is also a photographer.

Sherril is a writer for thedailyvoice news.com

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Comments

author avatar Retired
20th Jan 2015 (#)

In the UK, many public service employers have a rule that anyone who is disabled and applies for a job with them is guaranteed an interview. That doesn't mean that they will get the job, but at least it gives them a chance to prove their worth and at least get interview experience.

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author avatar Harris Mungai
20th Jan 2015 (#)

This is a good article that can be used by legislators to make a change in their leadership.
Good job Sherril.

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author avatar Eve Sherrill York
20th Jan 2015 (#)

Great article! Hits on so many things. One thing I would add is illegal aliens. And I don't just mean the ones coming over from Mexico but the ones who come here and get on disabilitiy. I think perhaps they should for the first six months but not for years on end. It is just too easy for them.

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author avatar Sherrill Fulghum
20th Jan 2015 (#)

If an undocumented person applies for disability, it can only be SSI which is tax money not a part of the Social Security system. Congress is attacking the Social Security system and the latest target is the disability benefits that people have to pay into to get.

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author avatar GenkiWorld
20th Jan 2015 (#)

i am disable and can't work ssi is my only means of money and in this bad echonomy $730 per month is not enough to support a house hold, congress fails to see that the disabled, the unemployed and the poor classes who one day not long ago were middle class are struggling. they need to get in touch with america once again.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
20th Jan 2015 (#)

Thank you Sherrill for writing this, because people need to hear about this. The Republicans mean-spitited attempts to do away with the social safety net reveals their true colors as greedy, selfish plutocrats who have nothing but disdain for the working person, the poor, people of color, women, and the less fortunate.

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