An Anecdote About Social Security Disability Insurance

There’s been some talk about dependency created by Social Security Disability Insurance (surprisingly from Nick Kristof!). Via Ben Domenech at The Transom, Veronique De Rugy recent…

  1. Jojo

    Thanks for the story and the link to the article, a surprising one for the New York Times.  I had no idea a child’s learning disability translates into cash for the parents.  When even the NYT sees there are perverse incentives there you can believe it is true.

    The NYT article describes a financially struggling young woman who has two children and a fiancee, and is pregnant with twins.  The writer concedes that more government intervention might not effect much improvement in her situation, but for the childrens’ sake we should try it.  What’s the definition of insanity?

  2. Dave

    First, I’m not sure I quite follow the connection between receiving a prescription for Ritalin and receiving a check for $700. I suppose it’s because if diagnosed as ADHD that qualifies the child as disabled and therefore entitled to money to help buy his Ritalin? Seems completely circular. What would a non-cynical rationale for this even be?

    Second, I also noticed how smoothly the NYT writer transitioned from the perverse incentives of government programs to the need for more government programs–just without the perverse incentives that someone forgot to account for in the past. As if it were that easy.

    Third, it strikes me that it is better to criticize these programs  not primarily because they are expensive but because they don’t work and make life worse for the people they’re supposed to help. Emphasizing our objection to the cost alone implies that we’re simply stingy–the government could help the poor but we just don’t want to because we’d rather have our tax cuts. That’s the impression that makers-vs-takers rhetoric leaves, I’m afraid. Tough love wins; cheap and cruel doesn’t.

  3. Foxfier
    Dave: First, I’m not sure I quite follow the connection between receiving a prescription for Ritalin and receiving a check for $700. I suppose it’s because if diagnosed as ADHD that qualifies the child as disabled and therefore entitled to money to help buy his Ritalin? Seems completely circular. What would a non-cynical rationale for this even be?

    It’s a disability, so you can get a social security check.  (One of the less publicized reasons SS is going down, I’d guess.)  I know a couple of folks who get those, but it’s for things like the kid was born with a major problem and so dad left, or they had a can’t-ever-move-out disabled kid, were fine, and then dad died.  (Talk about horrible luck.)

  4. Dave

    It would be interesting to see if there’s any reporting on what, exactly, qualifies as a disability. How did ADHA get to qualify?

  5. Foxfier

    Bing to the rescue!

    (and if those don’t make you feel sick…..)

  6. PsychLynne

    I have evaluated hundreds of kids, many of them poor and inner city for  disabilities. As a psychologist I was responsible for conducting the IQ and neuropsych testing battery.  Like the physician mentioned in the story, I have dealt with many kids and parents who were trying to obtain a diagnosis that would result in extra monthly payments and/or services at school.  When I worked in Memphis, one of the large inner city churches offered classes to the community on what to say for you child to qualify. 

    It’s a perverse system that determines disability by failure and achievement as a lack of disability.  The federal law that overs this in kids is IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act idea.ed.gov) and ADHD falls into the category of Other Health Impairment which also includes illnesses such as diabetes and asthma.  It’s important to remember that ADHD for disability gets you cash, the school system has a different set of eligibility to determine services in school.  In the Memphis clinic I mentioned above, we often found that the parents who brought children to us wanted the disability supplement, but did not follow through on educational services.

  7. Dave

    So the Ritalin is mostly needed as evidence to secure payments; it’s not that the payments are needed to buy the Ritalin. And you can easily see how doing well at school is a mark against the disability claim.

    Yes, the money wasted here is bad. But it’s so much worse to contemplate the damage being done to these kids to provide an income for their parents, and that’s not to mention the resources that could be going to kids so disabled they can’t walk or talk.

    And you know that if anyone would ever suggest, you know, maybe being more careful about distributing benefits–not even cutting back!–they’d be accused of wanting to turn children with cerebral palsy out into the snow.

  8. Skyler

    The evil of obamacare is not being forced to buy insurance, though that is bad enough. The real evil is the result that we see in this doctor’s story. Hayek called it the road to serfdom. Rand just asked “Who is is John Galt?”

  9. Dave

    PsychLynne, any idea how ADHD, diabetes, and asthma got included in the disability category? Before this thread, I knew there was social security disability for families of disabled kids, but I would have assumed it was for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down’s Syndrome–cases of a physical or mental handicap that precludes functioning as an independent adult.

    Any idea if there are different levels of compensation? So is the family of an ADHD child receiving the same payments as someone who needs 24 hour care?

    I alternate between sadness and anger about this whole thing. So much exploitation.

  10. Foxfier
    PsychLynne:

    In the Memphis clinic I mentioned above, we often found that the parents who brought children to us wanted the disability supplement, but did not follow through on educational services. · 5 hours ago

    How on earth did they avoid it?!

    I got classified as needing special ed, basically because I’m pig headed, and the school jumped on it as a great source of funds the moment my folks didn’t fight it.

    Although, come to think of it, I don’t remember any of the fetal alcohol syndrome kids from the rez being sent to the classes, so maybe you have to say “yes” at some point– so passive fighting works, or simply never showing up.

    ****

    Totally unrelated, I need more coffee: my imagination keeps trying to come up with a superhero power set for PsychLynne.

  11. Chris Campion

    I was on SSDI for a about a year and a half after a brain injury.  I was considered completely disabled.  SSDI wasn’t a lot of coin, but it was roughly $1,200 per month, which is more than enough to live on, especially if you’re receiving any other assistance in housing, food, medical care, etc. 

    To keep it short, I recovered.  But to get off SSDI involved a mild Herculean effort.  I had to prove to the USG that I not only was “abled”, but that I had the capacity to fend for myself, food/clothing/shelter, etc.  I was told, not in so many words, that it’s just better for me to stay on SSDI.

    The demand drives the budget requirements, so the SS administration is tacitly encouraged to keep the rolls growing if they want their budgets to grow, so (from my limited experience) there is jack in the way of oversight for SSDI qualification and monitoring.  The result is an explosion of growth in SSDI payments, and the occasionally confused citizen wondering how in the hell someone without much more than a stubbed toe is considered to be disabled these days.

  12. Skyler

    For some reason I can’t edit on my iPad. The word ‘involuntarily” should be “voluntarily.”

  13. Skyler

    My wife is deaf and gets SSDI. Since we didn’t need the money, we asked to be removed from the program. We are not in any way wealthy, we just don’t need charity. Then when she tried to use my military medical insurance, she was denied coverage because we involuntarily withdrew from SSDI. So I had to pay for Tricare and Medicare. So she went back on SSDI because I can’t afford two insurance policies. Then they learned we have a daughter and forced us to take even more money for her. They were emphatic that the law requires it and we have no choice. SSDI is a perverse system. I know many people who legitimately rely on it, but it has far too many perverse incentives to exploit it and penalties if you don’t.

  14. Chris Campion

    I know many people who legitimately rely on it, but it has far too many perverse incentives to exploit it and penalties if you don’t.

    This is SSDI in a nutshell.  It’s built to be exploited.  It’s been modified/enhanced to foster exploitation.  It actually discourages you from continuing to exploit the payments.

    There’s a reason why SSDI enrollment has spiked in the last 4 years.  This is a transfer payment, pure and simple, and guarantees votes for Democrats.  There is nothing more obvious under the sun.

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