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SSDI beneficiaries face an antagonistic bias

When you look at the last few years of policy discussions concerning the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, it seems odd that the program is often characterized as rife with fraud and abuse.

It has one of the most rigorous application processes, and two-thirds of applicants are denied on their initial application. They then must file appeals, and if they are finally approved for SSDI benefits, the entire process may have taken years.

And the audits of the SSDI program have show fraud is rare, yet politicians continue to characterize it as "out of control." For some, of course, it is a goal to dismantle all government programs, and SSDI with $145 billion in beneficiary payments, presents a large target.

Many Americans hold a bias towards anyone receiving government benefits. A recent survey found that people's opinion of the disabled could be altered merely by suggesting that they could obtain government benefits.

People tend to be very judgmental, often viewing those with disabilities as "undeserving," when they may have no idea of the difficulty and struggles that many who receive disability insurance benefits face every day.

More research is necessary to determine why, but there appears to be a strong cultural bias against those who need any government benefits. Congress itself seems biased, holding endless hearings concerning "problems" with SSDI and how to fix them, when the current funding problem is directly tied to the failure of the Congress to appropriately pay for the benefits it has authorized during the last four decades.

The projected exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund could have been prevented years ago by increasing the amount of payroll taxes by a percent or two and expanding the amount of income covered by the payroll tax.

Instead, members of Congress will focus on anecdotal evidence of fraud in isolated occurrences, in the hopes of using it to color public opinion further against SSDI, enabling them to seriously damage this essential program.

Latimes.com, "Bias against the disabled is as American as apple pie," Rourke L. O'Brien, January 21, 2015

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