There’s little doubt that the Social Security Disability system’s complicated rules and procedures are responsible for an abundance of misinformation and confusion in Oregon and nationwide. Unfortunately, the misunderstandings and misconceptions associated with the SSDI and SSI programs have left them vulnerable to critics, many of whom have called disability benefits a form of “social welfare” that needs to be abolished.
Until two days ago, however, the SSDI and SSI disability benefits programs had never been called “a form of modern, 21st-century slavery” (not to our knowledge, at least).
That changed this Sunday when Rep. Allan West of Florida ramped the rhetoric against Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income to a new level –equating the programs with the institution of slavery and laying blame for the surge of applications and approvals seen in recent years at President Obama’s “failing economic policies.”
West’s misguided statements this past weekend echoed his controversial statement from the weekend before, in which he accused the President of trying to get American voters “to be his slave(s) and be economically dependent on him.”
That said, West inadvertently got one thing right during his attack with the implicit recognition that people who receive disability benefits are economically dependent on the continuation of the two programs. This is hardly slavery, however. In fact, the SSDI program in particular is anything but — given the fact that you have to “buy” into the system to be eligible for benefits (with enough work and Social Security taxes), it works pretty much like any insurance policy. SSI, by contrast, is need-based and provides only modest benefits to those in our society who have the least.
We ask critics like West, what alternatives are there for people who have injuries, illnesses and medical conditions that prevent them from being able to work? How can these people support themselves, let alone their families? Even supposing for just a second that your underlying assumption is true — that disability benefits are essentially being used as an extended form of unemployment by millions of Americans — the “job creators” who have received so much government favor (a.k.a. corporate welfare) in recent years have done little to hold up their end of the bargain.
Source: The Hill, “Rep. West: Social Security ‘a form of modern, 21st-century slavery’,” Justin Sink, July 9, 2012