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April 2013

Disability Insurance Abuse shouldn’t be a substitute for Unemployment

So I was at the doctor’s office (Again) this morning. Sitting in the lobby talking to some people, most were not the usual old codgers that my doc normally saw (his bread & butter are his Medicare patients). These were folks much younger….and unemployed. Some of them came in to see if his office will declare them disabled so they can collect Social Security Disability Income. I know my doc, odds are he will reject 99% of them.

Now I grant you that some could have been genuinely disabled in some way. But I also have seen a lot of abuse going on with the SSDI system. Its slated to go broke by 2016. We need a better solution for the unemployed versus using something that was meant to help you while you were injured as a substitute for an unemployment check!

The program now has seen an explosion in the number of users. In 1990, it was around 4.2 million and is now 14 million. The largest increase happening over the past decade. How many of these folks are genuinely disabled? The program is now paying out about $200 Billion per year. That 2016 meltdown date is getting more real as the rolls get larger.

The expansion of SSDI isn’t a cause of the federal budget’s woes, its a symptom of the woes our current economic system imposes. While I abhore someone using because they have run out of unemployment benefits, I also abhor that that person’s benefits have run out or that they could not find a job. Many, indeed I speculate the majority of new cases are those who are entering middle age or are middle age to nearing retirement age. For these folks, the job market has been cruel to say the least. I’m reminded of my friend’s accountant who worked at a firm that got bought out. The man is now in his upper 50s, it was folks like him that got bought out, sadly in his case just prior to the bottom falling out. He has spent the past half decade looking for a job. Now I’m not aware if he is on SSDI, but it would not surprise me, as he fits the bill.

Social Security Disability Income will soon face some fiscal draconian measures to keep it alive. Once the money runs out, and it will at the rate things are going, those on it will be faced with a new stark reality. While Uncle Same will probably pump money into it, most likely new rules and standards will be put in place. And there should be, as perhaps we can curtail the abuse. But then what happens to folks who are without a job prospect despite looking and now face a reality with no other benefits? Many are in the Middle Class, a socioeconomic class that is losing membership fast. Many losing SSDI and facing harsh odds of being hired will fall through the class into America’s fastest growing demographic…the poor.

My idea for fixing immigration

So I hear about immigration reform. One of the biggest problems (besides crossing the border illegally and employers taking advantage of the situation) is the long wait times one has to go through to get a green card. Now this experience isn’t universal. I’ve known some folks who were able to get something in as short as two years or so and others who have waited decades. Its obvious that the government beauracracy is either underfunded/understaffed and/or just plain inefficient.

So here’s my simple solution…privatize the damn green card/work permit process out to credit card people like MasterCard or Visa. They already virtually everyone on file already, their product is used almost the globe over. I bet they could process a work visa application faster and cheaper than the government could. It would be funded by whatever fees it costs, and both could compete by offering add on services from debit banking to even some form of health insurance.