Blaming the Victim for Being Disabled is Ignorant and Unfair

December 23,2008
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An article about Social Security disability appeared a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal, focusing on Senatorial calls for review of Binder & Binder cases. (A second article on the topic ran today; if you can’t access the WSJ online, you can read the first article here.)
While some of the practices reported as being done by that company, if true, are disturbing and warrant review, what was more striking to me in reading the article and online comments by readers was the rampant ignorance of the system revealed by those posters in their comments.
Despite the fact that the Journal article gave a brief synopsis of the Social Security Disability process and the fact that Disability can be due to physical or mental problems, a surprising number of posts blamed the disabled for their conditions. There were too many references to how being obese is the fault of the person, and questioning how people can be disabled when work-place safety is at an all time high. Of course, there were the typical offensive rants about how everyone in the inner cities have learned to play the system and it is for that reason that the Government is bankrupt.
Seriously, all that those posts reveal is a disturbing ignorance about the Social Security Disability process.
The people who call for abolishing Social Security and returning old-age financial planning to the citizens fails to consider that not everyone is as financially set as they themselves might be. Those who blame the victims and reference job safety as a reason to abolish the system similarly just don’t understand. Those who lump together all minorities and residents of the inner cities clearly have issues that do not warrant further comment in this venue.
While it is true that there are abuses in the system, in my experience, the majority of people who come to us for help do so because they have run out of choices. More often than not, they have run through their savings, been forced to stop working despite decades of steady work, or come to us after multiple hospitalizations and extensive failed medical treatments.
Most people who become disabled, whether due to a car accident, assault, cancer or a mental disorder have no control over what happened to them. The vast majority of my clients would much prefer to be working instead of collecting the $900 national average monthly benefits that are sent by SSA; they just can’t.
It is my hope that the Senators and Representatives who will now focus greater scrutiny on the Social Security Disability system will remember that most of the beneficiaries of the program are legitimately disabled and only looking for the benefits that they earned after many years of paying into the Social Security system. They should also remember that most Disability beneficiaries vote.
Gabe Hermann