The American Association for Disability Policy Reform    

—   rehabilitation first   —

A Pension for Life

Once a person is granted disability benefits, he or she normally has a pension for life, disabled or not!   Here's why:

In the late 70's, with wide support from Democrats and Republicans alike, Congress instructed the Social Security Administration to review the cases of all persons who were receiving disability benefits and to remove from the rolls those persons who were no longer disabled.   The reviews began in the early 80's and were accelerated by the Reagan administration.

Using its customarily sloppy investigative techniques, the Social Security Administration removed a large number of beneficiaries who were disabled from the rolls.   It even sent letters to a few dead beneficiaries, telling them they were no longer disabled.   Some disabled persons were asked to return large amounts of money that the Social Security Administration said they should not have received because they had not been disabled.   Most of these persons lacked any means of repayment.   Some committed suicide.

Between 1981 and 1983, the print media published hundreds of stories of clearly-disabled recipients who were mistakenly removed from the disability rolls.   When the Social Security Administration's mistakes became known widely, members of Congress promptly forgot that they had been responsible for the fiasco to begin with and attacked the Social Security Administration.   Members of Congress also realized that by holding mock hearings, where they paraded people in wheelchairs and on crutches in front of the press and public while criticizing the Social Security Administration for having "the compassion of a Doberman Pinscher" and "eyes as cold as the marble around them," they they had excellent vote-getting opportunities.   The press loved the stories and fanned the flames.

Eventually Congress passed the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984, making it nearly impossible for the Social Security Administration to remove any recipient of disability benefits from the rolls unless the recipient returned to substantial work on his or her own.   Sloppy thinking incorporated into the Disability Reform Act also made it most difficult to remove from the rolls those who were least disabled to begin with and easiest to remove those who were most disabled to begin with.   In addition the Act made it impossible to remove from the rolls any person whose records the Administration had lost, even if that person said he or she no longer had any disabling condition.

In the years since 1984, with members of Congress not wanting to lose a vote, reviews have routinely been given very low priority and almost any excuse serves to continue disability benefits.   We have even seen cases where the person was declared disabled as a low-birth-weight newborn infant and was not reviewed until he or she was more than 30 years old and had been fully capable of work for many years.   As a result of all these problems, caused primarily by Congressional incompetence and neglect, many who are not disabled remain on the rolls - at your expense.

For an extensive review of the events leading up to the Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984, see David Whitman's Television and the 1981-84 Review of the Disability Rolls, pages 306-365 in How the Press Affects Federal Policymaking, Six Case Studies, Linsky, M., et al., editors, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1986.   Whitman shows what a sleazy bunch of pandering politicians many members of Congress were at this time when dealing with the disability programs.


Last updated on 1/16/2020.