Jewish World Review April 3, 2013/ 23 Nissan, 5773
Is disability the new welfare?
By Jonah Goldberg
The government in
It asked everyone receiving an "incapacity benefit" -- a disability program slowly being phased out under new reforms -- to submit to a medical test to confirm they were too disabled to work. A third of recipients (878,000 people) didn't even bother and dropped out of the program rather than be examined. Of those tested, more than half (55 percent) were found fit for work, and a quarter were found fit for some work.
Though hardly isolated, the LIRR scandal is an obvious black-and-white case of criminality. The real problem resides in a grayer area.
In 1960, when vastly more Americans were involved in physical labor of some kind, 0.65 percent of workforce participants between the ages of 18 and 64 were receiving
In 1960, 134 Americans were working for every officially recognized disabled worker. Five decades later that ratio fell to roughly 16 to 1.
Some defenders of the status quo say these numbers can be explained by the entry of women into the U.S. workforce, the aging of baby boomers and the short-term spike in need that came with the recession.
No doubt those are significant factors. But not nearly so significant as to explain why the number of people on disability has been doubling every 15 years (while the average age of recipients has gone down) or why such a huge proportion of claim injuries can't be corroborated by a doctor.
It's almost impossible, Eberstadt writes, "for a medical professional to disprove a patient's claim that he or she is suffering from sad feelings or back pain." And that's assuming a doctor wants to disprove the claim.
In an illuminating and predictably controversial exposé for "This American Life,"
The answers fall on both sides of the gray middle.
One factor has to do with what correspondent
Then there are the doctors. Joffe-Walt profiles one rural
That points to the even bigger parts of the story. As the nature of the economy changes, disability programs are sometimes taking the place of welfare for those who feel locked out of the workforce -- and state governments are loving it. States pay for welfare, the feds pay for disabilities.
There are those who are quick to argue that this is all bogus, there's nothing amiss with the disability system that greater funding and a better economy won't fix. Maybe they're right. One way to find out would be to ask every recipient to get a thorough examination, just as they did in
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