Eight Former SSA Commissioners Denounce NPR Piece in Open Letter

Earlier this month, eight former commissioners of the Social Security Administration (SSA) wrote an open letter to the public expressing their concerns with an NPR story entitled “Unfit for Work: The Startling Rise of Disability in America.” We have been covering the fallout from the story  since it was published in March, and multiple observers have pointed out how key details were omitted that could lead people to believe that all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients are lazy or entitled.

In their letter, the commissioners argue that the Social Security system is necessary for people with severe disabilities. “Approximately 1 in 5 of our fellow Americans live with disabilities, but only those with the most significant disabilities qualify for disability benefits,” the letter said. “Disabled beneficiaries often report multiple impairments, and many have such poor health that they are terminally ill: about 1 in 5 male [SSDI] beneficiaries and 1 in 7 female [SSDI] beneficiaries die within 5 years of receiving benefits. Despite their impairments, many beneficiaries attempt work using the work incentives under the Social Security Act and some do work part-time.”

Former commissioners Kenneth S. Apfel, Michael J. Astrue, Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Shirley S. Chater, Herbert R. Doggette, Louis D. Enoff, Larry G. Massanari and Lawrence H. Thompson penned the letter.

“Drastic changes to these programs would lead to drastic consequences for some of America’s most vulnerable people,” the letter read. “With the lives of so many vulnerable people at stake, it is vital that future reporting on the [SSDI] and [Supplemental Security Income] programs look at all parts of this important issue and take a balanced, careful look at how to preserve and strengthen these vital parts of our nation’s Social Security system.”

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives has a copy of the letter that you can view on its website. We are happy that people are coming out to defend SSDI recipients and shut down the narrative formed by the NPR story.

In order to obtain benefits, a person may be required to schedule a consultative examination with a doctor. Only in cases of severe disabilities are benefits awarded after an initial application. SSDI is not an entitlement program. People who collect benefits pay into the system and must have earned worked credits.

If you have questions about an application for disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact our Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers for a free consultation. You may also reach us by phone at (918) 587-0050.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys


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