It is commonly understood that sensationalism sells. Whether one is trying to run a newspaper or a 24-hour news network, it is tempting to take actual news and blow it out of proportion in order to catch the audience’s interest. As such, sensational stories should be taken with a grain of salt.
Sensationalism in the news can be damaging, and stories about Social Security Disability are a good example. While SSD fraud is actually somewhat rare, individual cases of alleged fraud are often given disproportionate news coverage because they support a narrative that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is “broken” and in need of reform.
A quick Google news search brings up a recent story of a United States Postal Service worker in Alaska who was recently indicted on more than a dozen counts of SSD fraud and workers’ compensation fraud. The man apparently qualified for benefits from both programs in 2001 due to a lower back injury.
Since 2009, however, he has allegedly been collecting benefits even while doing unreported, temporary work and engaging in summer fishing trips. It is unclear if his original injuries were legitimate, but prosecutors allege that he has inappropriately continued to collect workers’ compensation and SSD benefits since 2009.
No one debates the fact that fraud exists. Certainly, some individuals do have dishonest motives. But evidence of a few bad actors does not support an assertion that SSD fraud is “widespread” or that individuals applying for SSD should be subjected to even more scrutiny.
America has among the most stringent eligibility standards for disability in the world. There may be plenty of examples of individuals who received benefits but didn’t deserve them. But there are far more stories of Americans who deserve and desperately need SSD benefits but have not been approved for them. The first scenario may be more sensational, but the second one is arguably far more tragic.
Source: KTUU, “USPS Worker Allegedly Fished During $334K Disability Fraud,” Chris Klint, April 18, 2014