At his website Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), who introduced a bill last year to combat disability fraud, said "Not one dime should be lost to fraud, waste, or abuse."
But the Washington Post reports that fraud appears limited to relatively few cases in the disability program:
"A report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that about 0.4 percent of disability beneficiaries were likely receiving improper payments, because they were working before or after they began receiving checks. Another report by Social Security's inspector general examined administrative law judges who were approving an unusually high proportion of disability applications and concluded that some of those approvals may have been mistaken. That group of beneficiaries also accounted for about 0.4 percent of all those receiving disability payments."
Even if those two studies weren't concurrent, and you totaled their findings, that would still be a total of only 0.8 percent — or 71,650 cases of suspected fraud — out of a total of 8,956,269 disabled workers; and that excludes children and widowers (Source: SSA). Another way to look it is: Of the 92.9 million "not in the labor force", just 9.6% are disabled workers receiving Social Security benefits — and many are Vets*. According to a study by Cornell University, as of 2012 there were 37,627,800 Americans of all ages who reported one or more disabilities.
On their very first day at work, the new GOP Congress made a rule change for Social Security that would most certainly cut benefits for those on disability by 20%. Arthur Delaney wrote a piece at the Huffington Post regarding a group of Democrats in the U.S. Senate who came out against the recently imposed rule that blocks Congress from shifting Social Security funds to prevent a cut to disability insurance next year. In a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell, they wrote, "It is cynical to try and pit retirees and beneficiaries with disabilities against each other, as the House Republican rule change attempts to do."
The GOP is notorious for hostage-taking and their “divided and conqueror” strategies (white vs. black, old vs. young, North vs. South, gay vs. straight, pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc.). One reader commented at the Huffington Post:
"Everyone I know on SSI not only DID NOT WORK FOR FORTY CONSECUTIVE MONTHS, but most never held a steady job at all. The abuse is UNREAL, the amount of people collecting for ADD, ADHD, BiPolar, when all had been drug abusers and alcoholics before are collecting in my area. And pretty much anyone who can live three years while waiting for the lawyers appeals. After three years they get it in Michigan. It's unreal!" (I'm guessing he's a Fox News viewer and associates with a lot of people who are down on their luck.)
In another post I wrote (2013) I explained that SSI is not at all the same thing as Social Security disability:
SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is an earned benefit that is funded by Social Security taxes paid for by workers with FICA taxes. Benefits are paid to people with physical and mental impairments that are severe enough to prevent them from working. These benefits are based on a person's work record, the same as regular retirement benefits. People in this program, because they were already part of the work force, tend to affect the labor-participation rate, more so than someone in the SSI program.
SSI (Supplemental Security Income) pays an unearned benefit to low-income people who are 65 or older and/or to adults who are disabled (based on the same definition used by SSDI). This program is only for people who have very limited income and assets. SSI is financed by general revenues that the Treasury Department collects to run the U.S. government. SSI benefits have never been tied to a person's work record.
But Rep. Sam Johnson (like most Republicans) wants to talk about "fraud". So because the Republicans believe that "not one dime should be lost to fraud", they also believe that the other 99.92% of disabled workers should suffer a massive reduction in their monthly incomes. Does that reasoning sound sane? If Rep. Sam Johnson had a pimple on his nose, should we chop off his head?
So let's talk about fraud: The Government Accountability Office had estimated that Medicare loses nearly 10 percent annually to fraud — which we can partially attribute to Republican politicians such as Gov. Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott — as well as to Big Pharma, doctors and hospitals (Read: Gain at the Price of Patient Pain by Big Pharma).
We also have massive fraud, waste and abuse in defense spending. Does Rep. Sam Johnson and the GOP believe we should cut defense spending by 20 percent? How much is lost to fraud, waste, or abuse in any private sector enterprise? How much fraud is there on Wall Street? I suspect (as a percentage of budgets) there's far more fraud, waste, or abuse in congressional allowances.
Rep. Sam Johnson also stated at his website, "Social Security’s complex application and disability determination process makes it nearly impossible for many claimants to apply without paid professional help." (OMG! It sounds as though he feels empathetic towards the needs of the disabled!)
Well actually, disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis — and in most cases, the fee is limited to 25% of past due benefits. But yes, the lawyers get paid, but only if they win your case. And when they do, you can bet that (after years of anxiety, doubt, depression, fear and hardship) the claimants are VERY GRATEFUL (and may have saved a few lives.)
But despite what the Republicans have been saying, that's also one of the many reasons why it's so difficult to win a disability award. On Fox News Bill O'Reilly says, "So why has the disability rate increased more than 100 percent? I'll tell you why. It's a con. It's easy to put in a bogus disability claim."
But if one goes back far enough, EVERYTHING has gone up 100%. And Mister O'Reilly doesn't differentiate between a "claim" and an actual "award". For example, by the end of 2013 there had been 2,640,000 "claims", but only 888,000 "awards". And they're actually declining. (Source: SSA).
And not everybody can put in a disability claim. First, you must be disabled. Then medical evidence must be presented, not just by one's own doctor, but claimants are also sent to Social Social Security's own medical professionals for evaluations. This author knows from personal experience. Even AFTER my condition was confirmed, I was still denied on my claim and had to appeal 3 years into my claim. The judge (in my case) seemed very harsh. I had suspected that the Social Security Administration was deliberately trying to keep the number of awards low.
So anybody who has gone through the experience knows very well that pursuing a claim is not easy at all, and most people don't win their claims. That tells me that either the Republicans are very ignorant on the subject of disability, or they don't care at all about the truth or the facts, or they have been blatantly lying all along (or all of the aforementioned).
So what is Rep. Sam Johnson? I suspect that it is he who is the real fraud — just like the rest of the GOP (Read: History of the GOP's War on Social Security). The GOP gets their "facts" from partisan think tanks, such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, accommodating business lobbying groups such as the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce. Or GOP politicians will use anecdotal stories, misinformation, conspiracies, hyperbole and propaganda to create their own facts to make their case. But many times their "facts" are based on emotion, like when they get their talking points from wealthy talking heads such as Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (who will say anything to keep their own taxes from going up) — and their hyperbole is not based on facts either. They are the real "fraud".
Plain and simple: the GOP would rather harm the disabled rather than tax the wealthy. It's past time to eliminate the Social Security "cap", tax capital gains for Social Security and pass a Robin Hood Tax.
* NOTE: Just out of curiosity, while writing this post, I did a Google search and typed "Fox News Social Security disability". I found no articles about the GOP's rule change to defund disability. So I tried two more searches queries: "Fox News Social Security" and "Fox News disability" — and again, I found nothing (just the usual stuff about "fraud"). That led me to wonder how many disabled Republicans (who only read and watch Fox News) even know about this GOP rule change to cut their monthly incomes by 20%.
** FINAL NOTE: To report fraud, click here: http://oig.ssa.gov/report — because no one wants fraud, but most of us don't want to eliminate or cut programs just because of fraud. Otherwise, nothing in human history would ever have existed. We can't allow a few bad apples to ruin something good for everyone else. We can't eliminate "government" entirely — and we don't necessarily need "less" government either, just "better" government" — because even capitalism requires government.