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Easier said than done

One has to question their seriousness. When politicians speak of things related to Social Security, the question that comes to mind is often "Do they really mean that or are they just saying it for effect?"

Social Security disability is a big, complex program with millions of beneficiaries and a budget of more than $100 billion. It makes an easy target. In a talk that Rand Paul had with seniors, he commented that a significant problem with the program is that "doctors too easily give patients seeking disability payments the sign-off."

He went on to say that, "For every one of those (who are disabled), there are one or two who aren't really disabled." If this were a credible statement, it would suggest more than 50 percent of all SSD beneficiaries would have to have fraudulently obtained their benefits. Given that actual research has found "fraud" rates at one percent or less within the SSD system, this would be shocking.

Few individuals who have actually gone through the process in Missouri and Illinois probably feel as though they received their benefits "too easily." With the exception of those who obtain their benefits via the Compassionate Allowance program because they suffer from a very severe medical condition, most spend months, even years, dealing with the application and appeal process.

They may need to appear at a hearing with an administrative law judge in order to obtain their benefits. It can take a year or more after the appeal is filed for that to happen, and even then, the claim could be rejected.

Paul suggests having independent doctors review disability applications. While that could prevent some fraud, the important question to ask is what would that process cost and who would pay for it?

Most applicants are struggling financially. They endure the ordeal of applying for SSD benefits because they have no other options.

So, it would likely have to come from the Social Security Administration's budget. With hundreds of thousands of applications every year, that would mean a similar number of doctors' examinations. And with SSA having been underfunded during much of the last decade, due specifically to Congress cutting their budget, it is unclear how expense would be paid.

Source:, "Rand Paul Tells Seniors He Would Change Social Security," Philip Elliott, January 5, 2016

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